Date: Saturday, November 23, 2019
Kickoff Time: 2:30 p.m. CT
Location: Birmingham, Alabama
Stadium: Legion Field
Series Record: La Tech leads 5-2
Betting Line: UAB -6.5
Just when it looked like the west division of C-USA had been decided, the race is on the verge of being wide open again.
If the Bulldogs win, they would just need a win over UTSA or a Southern Miss loss to clinch the division title. It would also officially eliminate UAB from the race.
If the Blazers win, however, it would open the door for a chaotic finish. Tech, UAB and Southern Miss would all remain alive going into the regular season’s final week.
To add to the intrigue, while UAB is expected to get starting quarterback Tyler Johnston III back from injury, Tech will have to go one more week without suspended starter J’Mar Smith and leading receiver Adrian Hardy.
Johnston had 1899 passing yards with 15 touchdowns before he went down in the game against Tennessee. He also has nearly 200 rushing yards with a touchdown. There’s a possibility that backup Dylan Hopkins could play, as well. He has 237 yards and two touchdowns this season.
However, Johnston has also thrown 13 interceptions this season, and Hopkins has thrown three. That could spell trouble against a Tech defense that ranks second in C-USA in interceptions.
Without Smith, Tech is expected to again turn to redshirt freshman Aaron Allen. Allen made his first career start last week at Marshall and completed 19 of 32 passes for 159 yards. He didn’t turn the ball over, but he also didn’t throw a touchdown. The Tech offense managed only a season-low 10 points.
Tech will need to figure something out if it wants to solve the top defense in Conference USA.
Between two stingy defenses and a backup quarterback, this has the makings of a low-scoring affair. If Tech is to win on the road, the Bulldogs will need to generate a couple of turnovers that set up the offense on a short field. A pick six would also be a huge help. UAB has a tendency to turn it over, so the Blazers will need to be careful with the ball.
With Smith set to return next week against UTSA, a Tech win would likely all but seal the division for the Dawgs. But even if Tech were to lose, the Bulldogs could still recover. UAB has to finish the season on the road, and Southern Miss finishes with two tough games. Still, Tech doesn’t want to gamble on other teams losing.
As for UAB, the Blazers would need help even with a win, but that would at least keep them alive.
Both teams know there’s a ton on the line in Birmingham, so expect both teams to leave it all on the field.