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2019 Conference USA Championship Game Preview: FAU Owls vs UAB Blazers

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Lane Kiffin vs Bill Clark is the best coaching matchup C-USA has to offer and should be a treat.

NCAA Football: Marshall at Florida Atlantic Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Records: FAU (9-3) vs UAB (9-3)

Game Time: 1:30 pm ET Saturday, December 7th

Location: FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, Florida

TV: CBS Sports Network

Live Stats: SideArm Stats

Series Record: FAU leads 4-2 but UAB won the last meeting in 2014 31-28

Betting Line: FAU -7.5, Over/Under 49


Preview

A lot has changed since the last time UAB and FAU met on the field. The Blazers lost their team, then got it back! In their return to the gridiron Bill Clark not only got UAB to a bowl game, but followed up that comeback season by producing a school record 11 wins and a C-USA Championship.

FAU’s journey wasn’t anywhere close to being that wild, but has accomplished great feats nonetheless. They underwent a coaching change and miraculously ended up with Lane Kiffin. In his debut season Kiffin dominated C-USA with an undefeated season and C-USA Championship. Like Bill Clark, Kiffin also won 11 games, a school record for FAU. The Owls failed to meet expectations last season but after losing a couple of players to the NFL Draft, Kiffin bounced back with another C-USA east title, his second in three years on the job.

This matchup puts the last two C-USA title winners and features the best coaching matchup the conference has to offer. There’s a reason why rumors are circulating that both Clark and Kiffin could be on their way to the SEC by the end of the weekend.

FAU is the prohibitive favorite in this one and for good reason. The Owls lead C-USA in scoring offense with 34 points per game, No. 1 in turnovers forced, ranking among the nation’s best with 19 interceptions. FAU averages 31 points per game at home in FAU Stadium, which is where the C-USA Championship Game will be taking place.

Led by tight end Harrison Bryant on offense and quarterback Chris Robison, FAU’s offense has really started to reach another gear with the emergence of BJ Emmons. Defensively the Owls are a bend but don’t break unit that thrives off of forcing turnovers. FAU’s one weakness this season on defense has been against bruising rushing attacks.

Enter Spencer Brown. It hasn’t exactly been the season UAB fans were hoping from Brown, but the star RB was finally able to have his first 100-yard game of the season last week against North Texas. With QB Tyler Johnston’s struggles in taking care of the ball this year, expect the Blazers to play keep-away.

The key is whether or not UAB’s defense will be up to the challenge. The Blazers have the best run defense in C-USA as they are allowing 92.3 yards yards per game. While Chris Robison is certainly capable of leading FAU to victory, the Owls are at their best when their RBs are having success. Taking away FAU’s RBs and staying away from turnovers will go a long way in determining if UAB can pull the upset.

Prediction

Despite the outside distractions about both coaches potentially leaving, I don’t think either team will be impacted as I’m expecting both squads to be locked in. The key matchup of the game for me is UAB’s offense vs FAU’s defense. UAB is 11th on third down conversions. FAU’s defense is really good at getting off of the field as they are 4th. If UAB can’t stay on the field and the Owls start to score in bunches, can the Blazers keep up? The Blazers are 10th in total offense and scoring offense in C-USA. FAU’s defense is tough to score against when they can play with a lead. Bill Clark’s wizardry will keep it close, but FAU has too much firepower. FAU 41 UAB 24