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UAB Travels to Denton to Start Conference Play Against North Texas

The Blazers lick their wounds and continue their early season campaign away from Birmingham

NCAA Football: Army at North Texas
Nov 18, 2017; Denton, TX, USA; North Texas Mean Green place kicker Trevor Moore (30) celebrates his game winning 39-yard field against the Army Black Knights at Apogee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports
Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Records: UAB (1-1) vs North Texas (1-1)

Game Time: 6:30 pm CT

Location: Apogee Stadium, Denton, Texas

TV: Stadium

Radio: Varsity Network or Blazers All-Access

Series Record: UAB leads 4-1 and won the last meeting 26-21 in 2019

Betting Line: UAB favored by 12 points, final score over/under 57.5

NCAA Football: Alabama-Birmingham at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

UAB Blazers Outlook

After getting a taste of the second-rated team in the country, the UAB Blazers will likely be thrilled to get back to Conference USA play this week. While no one expected the Blazers to take it to #2 Georgia last week, a 56-7 final ranks as the Blazers’ largest margin of defeat through the Bill Clark era. UAB failed to score on offense, as their lone touchdown came in a pick six from Keondre Swoopes in garbage time.

For as miserable as last Saturday’s SEC thrashing was, it should roll right off the Blazers’ back given how accustomed this program is to winning games. After all, UAB did start their season on the right foot after crushing Jacksonville State, one of the top programs in the FCS, 31-0 in a rare neutral site game. Since the Blazers have yet to face an opponent of equal resources, we’re still waiting to see just what this team is capable of.

What we do know, however, is that the Blazers won’t have that different of an identity than what brought UAB to three consecutive Conference USA championship games. While star running back Spencer Brown is chasing an NFL paycheck, the Blazers will continue to gash defenses with Jermain Brown Jr. and DeWayne McBride in the backfield. Once the safeties start to creep up to the line of scrimmage, quarterback Tyler Johnston III won’t be afraid to throw up the deep ball to emerging deep threat Trea Shropshire.

UAB’s offense can be boom-or-bust, but their defense is as consistent as they come whenever Georgia isn’t on the schedule. The Blazers’ roster is flush with talent on the defensive side of the ball, with standouts Swoopes, TD Marshall, Kris Moll, and Alex Wright causing offenses headaches for four quarters.

UNT Mean Green Outlook

While the talent level will drop significantly, the Mean Green will still present a challenge to the divisional front runner. With Head Coach Seth Littrell’s seat warming in Denton, Littrell decided to go with a veteran hand at defensive coordinator in the hopes of giving the Mean Green a pulse on that side of the ball. Defensive Coordinator Phil Bennett enjoyed three seasons of early retirement before agreeing to come back to the game to guide UNT’s defensive rebuilt.

Bennett’s move to an even-man defensive front has already paid dividends. The Mean Green have allowed 24.5 points per game this season, a massive improvement over UNT’s dreadful 42.8 PPG in 2020. Moving Gabriel and Grayson Murphy to defensive end has improved UNT’s pass rush as the twins both have eight quarterback pressures a piece in the early going.

North Texas’ offense has shown a bit more change since last season than expected. North Carolina transfer Jace Ruder stepped in and won the starting quarterback job over incumbent Austin Aune, while injuries at the running back position caused DeAndre Torrey to step into the feature back role after lining up at slot receiver to start fall camp.

Unfortunately for the Mean Green, Torrey is questionable for this Saturday. Jace Ruder may need to win this game with his arm given the injury streak at the running back position. Look for Roderic Burns and Deonte Simpson to be targeted often throughout the evening.

Prediction

Under-manned and playing as an under dog, UNT will want to use tempo to their advantage in a more pure of an air raid offense than Seth Littrell has employed in recent years. UNT’s defense will surprise folks with their stinginess, but ultimately UAB’s big play threats will win out against a less-disciplined Mean Green roster (17 penalties for 146 yards through two games). The Mean Green cover the spread, but the Blazers’ war machine keeps churning.

UAB 28 UNT 20