UAB has only reached the 5-win mark once over the last eight years so most sports bettors simply overlook the Blazers on a regular basis. However, with fifteen returning starters and the arrival of new head coach Bill Clark, who previously led Jacksonville State to a school-record 11-4 campaign in 2013, the Blazers are playing with renewed focus and enthusiasm. In fact, UAB is 3-2 SU and ATS this season, including an impressive 42-39 upset road win over Western Kentucky last week as nine-point underdogs.
The Blazers have won the statistics in each of their first five games this season, including outgaining Mississippi in Week Two as 29-point underdogs (47-34 loss). Clark has done a terrific job with a UAB program that was thought to be in a rebuilding stage this season as the Blazers are +110 yards per game entering Saturday’s conference game against North Texas. Let’s take a look at how both of these teams match-up with one another from the line of scrimmage:
UAB is averaging 37.0 points per game at 4.3 yards per rush play, 9.4 yards per pass play and 6.2 yards per play against teams that would combine to allow just 4.2 yards per rush attempt, 7.8 yards per pass attempt and 5.8 yards per play. Overall, UAB is merely average on the ground (0.1 yards per play better than average), but the Blazers’s aerial attack has been phenomenal this season at 1.6 yards per pass play better than average. Wide receivers JJ Nelson (339 yards, 1 TD), Josh Magee (218 yards, two TDs) and Gerald Everett (180 yards, TD) all average at least 22 yards per catch, while Kennar Backman (18 receptions, 193 yards, 3 TDs) is considered the most effective possession receiver. Overall, UAB is 0.4 yards per play better than average from the line of scrimmage and are ranked 22nd in NCAA Football on offense, averaging 498.4 yards per game.
The Blazers have been 0.2 yards per play better than average defensively this season, allowing 5.4 yards per play to teams that would combine to average 5.6 yards per play. While only slightly above-average, UAB’s stop unit is good enough to limit a mediocre North Texas offense. I also like the fact that UAB is limiting opponents to just 32 percent on third-down conversions. Jake Ganus (25 tackles) and Diahee Watkins (21 tackles) are the bedrock of the Blazers’ defense, combining for 10.5 tackles for a loss and five sacks.
North Texas Mean Green:
North Texas is averaging 34.4 points per game at 4.3 yards per rush play, 5.9 yards per pass play and 4.9 yards per play against teams that would combine to allow 5.4 yards per rush attempt, 7.1 yards per pass attempt and 6.1 yards per play. Overall, the Mean Green are 1.1 yards per rush play, 1.2 yards per pass play and 1.2 yards per play worse than average offensively this season. North Texas is ranked 116th in NCAA Football on offense, averaging 320.0 yards per game. I don’t like the fact that North Texas employs a two-quarterback system with Dajon Williams and Josh Greer, both of whom combine to average a pathetic 141 passing yards per game.
The Mean Green’s stop unit has also been extremely vulnerable this season as they are yielding 5.3 yards per play to teams that would combine to average just 4.8 yards per play. Overall, North Texas is 0.4 yards per rush play, 0.4 yards per pass play and 0.5 yards per play worse than average defensively this season.
Based on the fundamental analysis alone, UAB possesses a significant advantage from the line of scrimmage in this game. Specifically, the Blazers’ offense has a +0.9 yards per play advantage offensively and a +1.2 yards per play advantage defensively over North Texas. UAB should have success moving the chains through the air where the Blazers possess a huge +2.0 yards per pass play advantage over the Mean Green’s woeful secondary.
Let’s also note that North Texas is 0-2 SU and ATS on the road this season where the Mean Green are averaging 15.5 points per game offensively, while yielding 43.5 points per game defensively. That fits nicely into the fact that the Blazers are averaging 36.3 points per game at home, while limiting opponents to just 19.3 points per game.
North Texas is coming off a successful 2013 campaign wherein it was 9-4, but the Mean Green benefitted from a +10 turnover margin (extreme positive variance) and are now without their starting quarterback, a 1,000-yard rusher, two of their top three receivers and the best five tacklers on the team. This game has blowout written all over it – lay the points with UAB and invest with confidence.
NCAA Football Free Pick: UAB (-6) (-110) over North Texas