Location: Yulman Stadium - New Orleans, LA
Date: Saturday, September 25
Time: 7:00 p.m. CT
TV: ESPN+ (The service can be accessed here)
Records: UAB 2-1 (0-0 C-USA), Tulane 1-2 (0-0 AAC)
Betting Line: Tulane -4, O/U 57
All-Time Series: Series Tied 5-5
Last Meeting: Tulane 24, UAB 31 (September 15, 2018)
Quick Hits: The Green Wave are coming off a 40-point loss to Ole Miss and will be looking to secure their second win of the season in their final non-conference game of the season. This will be Tulane’s first home game of 2021 as Hurricane Ida forced the team to relocate to Birmingham, AL (the home of UAB) for several weeks.
The Blazers beat North Texas 40-6 last weekend and will be hitting the road for the third straight week. Currently UAB has reported no major injuries and appears to be full-go for this Saturday’s meeting with Tulane.
From Tulane’s Perspective: It must feel good to be home for Willie Fritz and his Green Wave team that has been displaced for three weeks. Yulman Stadium will be rocking come Saturday night and that’s good news for a Tulane squad that desperately needs a bounce back win against a very formidable opponent before AAC play begins.
When the Wave met up with the Blazers in 2018, Tulane played perhaps the ugliest game of their entire season and it resulted in a one-score loss. Uncharacteristic turnovers and drops plagued them in Birmingham then and the same mishaps in this one will result in much more than only a seven-point defeat.
The Blazers’ defense is stout, allowing not even 200 pass yards per game this season; something that quarterback Michael Pratt and the offense will have to be aware of. Pratt has yet to throw an interception this season but if he wants that trend to continue he’ll need to be aware of DB Keondre Swoopes. Swoopes has already nabbed two picks this year and taken one back for a touchdown.
Pratt, fortunately, will have several viable targets including the likes of Tyrick James. James leads Tulane in receiving yards (189) and receptions (11) this fall and has two touchdowns to his name. He is averaging 17.2 yards per catch and has proven to be one of Pratt’s preferred targets so far this young season. Don’t be surprised if he’s a big part of the game plan again in this one.
Joining James will be Jaetavian Toles and freshman phenom Shae Wyatt. Each have recorded a touchdown on seven catches during the first three games.
One thing Tulane will do often is use running back Cameron Carroll in a variety of ways. Carroll is a punisher on the ground having racked up 106 yards and a score on the ground, but perhaps is best assets come through the air. He has caught five passes this season, two of which went for scores. Against a UAB defense that is stingy against the run, Carroll’s varying skillsets may be just what Tulane needs.
The Green Wave defense will need their linebackers to have their heads on a swivel. Nick Anderson and Dorian Williams will be manning things over the middle. The duo has combined for 29 total tackles, 2.5 TFL and one fumble recovery this year and that’s good news as UAB boasts many offensive weapons capable of dealing damage.
The hard-hitting secondary will need to play much better than they did against Ole Miss as well. Last week they gave up over 300 pass yards from Matt Corral and Tyler Johnston III isn’t too shabby either. Macon Clark, who has 17 tackles and one pick, will be patrolling the back end along with tackle leader Kevin Henry. Henry also has an interception that he took back for a score.
Slowing down the Blazers offense will be a chore but if the guys up front can hold up, the job gets a little easier. JoJo Dorceus and Jeffery Johnson will look to be the stout wall Tulane needs. Dorceus has authored 1.5 sacks this year while Johnson has eight tackles.
From UAB’s Perspective: The third road game in as many weeks is tough. What’s tougher is going up against a team that’s proven to be no slouch as Tulane has so far this season. Yes, the loss to Ole Miss was ugly but this Green Wave took then No. 2 Oklahoma to the brink before dismantling Morgan State. Head coach Bill Clark knows that and will have his guys primed and ready to give Tulane a game on Saturday night.
You’ve got to believe the Blazers are going to ride with the hot hand here and that’s receiver back Gerrit Prince. Prince, who already has three touchdowns and over 200 yards this season, will undoubtedly see many targets throughout the course of this game. He’s averaging a whopping 29.1 yards per catch so why wouldn’t you throw it his way?
Prince isn’t the only one who’s proven to be a problem through the air, however. Trae Shropshire has two touchdowns of his own and 166 yards on just six snags. These Blazers wideouts know how to break it and they can catch a defense napping as good as anyone.
Then let’s talk about the guy throwing them the ball. Tyler Johnston may not be having the best start to his season as far as picks go seeing as he’s already tossed three but don’t get it misconstrued; this kid is still good. He’s thrown for well over 4,000 yards and 37 touchdowns in his five-year career. He currently has a 58.5% completion percentage and has oodles of experience.
On the ground, expect running backs DeWayne McBride and Jermaine Brown Jr. to see many of the carries. Each has rushed for nearly identical numbers, 168 and 165 yards respectively, and has found the end zone once. The Blazers like to run it with these two as they have combined for a total of 71 of the team’s 123 total carries. They’ll have a tall order against Tulane’s talented linebackers but if they get going then watch out.
Safety Will Boler is perhaps the Blazers’ biggest asset on defense. He and the aforementioned Swoopes have combined for 22 total tackles and three defended passes. Pratt is one of the up-and-coming slingers in the AAC and if UAB’s defense ends up rendering him ineffective, Boler will probably be a big reason why.
One thing the Blazers will need to do is get to Pratt; something the team has struggled with so far this season. UAB only has three sacks on opposing QBs, each coming from a different player. Deshaun Oliver Jr. is a force up front with 12 tackles (one for loss) and will need to spark an inspired performance on the line to thwart Tulane’s dynamic offense.
Final Thoughts: This has the makings to be a really good showdown between two teams that are legitimately looking to compete in their conferences this year. UAB has proven to be one of the greatest comeback stories in sports as this program was dead and gone not even six years ago. Since then they’ve won a C-USA title and have established themselves as a G5 mainstay. Tulane, conversely, has become a feel good story this fall with the off-field tribulations they've faced. Adversity has only inspired the Green Wave and they are picked by several to be a dark horse in this AAC race in 2021. Oh yeah, and now they’re back home in front of some pretty eager fans. What’s not to love about this game? It could very easily be decided in the waning seconds.
Prediction: Tulane 35 - UAB 31