Date: Saturday, November 30, 2019
Kickoff Time: 3 p.m. CST
Location: Apogee Stadium, Denton, TX
Line: UAB -3, O/U 49.5
Series Record: UAB leads 3-1
Last Meeting: UAB won 29-21 in Birmingham last year
The Blazers (8-3, 5-2) continue to have a great season and, when they’ve been allowed to actually field a team, a pretty great decade.
The reigning conference champions have more or less done everything they needed to do this year, save for a close loss to WKU early in the season, and a perhaps inexplicable blowout loss at Southern Miss on November 9th. One could argue they certainly righted the ship when they shut down Louisiana Tech a week ago.
Led by head coach Bill Clark, and quarterback Tyler Johnston III, the Blazers have fielded a complete team this season, and for the most part, a consistent one. UAB has not announced a starter for Saturday yet, but backup quarterback Dylan Hopkins handled Louisiana Tech, a squad that came into the game with the best record in the conference.
If he does start, Johnston brings in 1.902 passing yards on the season. He’s amassed 15 touchdowns this year, but 13 interceptions. He’s a sophomore, and already obliterated his own freshman numbers. He is the UAB quarterback of the future, if he stays healthy. If Hopkins gets the nod— well. He threw for fewer completions against Louisiana Tech than he did in the loss to Southern Miss. The Blazers are a good football team, is what we’re saying.
On the ground, UAB’s leading rusher Jermaine Brown Jr. has 409 yards on the season, and two touchdowns on 78 attempts. This is less than half the yardage of UNT’s leading rusher, Tre Siggers, but UAB has four guys they can reliably hand the ball to— Jermaine Brown Jr, Spencer Brown (351 yards, four touchdowns), Lucious Stanley (343 yards, six touchdowns), and whichever quarterback is on the field.
In UAB’s conference losses, they were largely shut down by a strong defense, and inability to get anything going on the ground. Much has been written about North Texas, but “strong defense” is not one of them.
UNT has been breaking in a new offensive coordinator this season, and the results at this stage can most accurately be described as “disastrous.”
In his first three years with the team, quarterback Mason Fine broke nearly every passing record North Texas had, while thrilling fans on the field and adding a wow-factor to the box score. His seven touchdown passes against UTEP earlier this season were one shy of the school record, but they were still fun to watch, and further proof of his talent and drive.
But one player does not a champion team make, and once you remove Fine from the equation, you’re not left with a whole lot. To know what that would look like, one need only look at the stats from last week against Rice, where Fine only had two completions by halftime, and finished 17 of 32 for for 163 yards.
In that game, if you’re UAB, you have four running backs and a solid backup to pick up the slack. If you’re UNT, you just keep handing the ball to Tre Siggers, who ran twelve times for only 38 yards. So that didn’t work, so OC Bodie Reeder gave the ball to DeAndre Torrey instead, who totaled 41 yards on only five carries.
There wasn’t another choice. Any quarterback having that bad a game would be pulled, but North Texas either knew they didn’t have anyone, or else just gave up. Having seen this team in recent years under Seth Littrell, it is unlikely the latter option. Which makes for a grim 2020 outlook for this team.
The Mean Green (4-7, 3-4) have had some nice moments this season— hanging with Cal for most of the game, and coming a lot closer to beating Southern Miss than UAB did. But this 2019 version of the Mean Green is not the version we saw 2016-2018, and the stats support it (as well as the losing record). Fine is great, but two years ago finished with 4,052 yards on the season. Last year, 3,793. For the 2019 season, after the collapse against Rice, Fine will enter his final North Texas game having put up “only” 2,820 passing yards this year.
This is what makes football great. Who has the better quarterback? Despite negative rush yards this season, the answer is clearly Mason Fine. Who has the better team? There’s no more guesswork, we’ve seen both these teams play eleven games this year, and the writing is on the wall: This is the worst North Texas team since 2014. This is the best UAB football team of all time, with the possible exception of last year.
How high is UAB’s ceiling in 2019? We’ll find out this weekend, and if the dice roll their way, we’ll find out in the Conference USA title game, or certainly a bowl. How low is UNT’s basement? Short of a shut-out, we’re already there.
Final Score: UAB 30, North Texas 24