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UAB Blazers quarterback Dylan Hopkins (9) hands off to running back DeWayne McBride (22). (Photo by Bobby McDuffie/Icon Sportswire)
December 17th, 2021
The 13th-ranked BYU Cougars will look to secure a place in the season-ending AP Top 10, as they square off with the UAB Blazers on Saturday in the Independence Bowl.
After winning the Conference USA West four years running, the Blazers missed out on the title after blowing a lead at UTSA in the second-to-last week of the season, and finished behind the Roadrunners in the division. The key play for the Blazers was a 4th-and-one with two minutes to go, where a conversion meant they could run down the clock.
Instead, they committed a delay-of-game penalty and had to punt, allowing a final winning drive for their opponent. Penalties have been a big problem for the Blazers, who lead the country in penalty yardage.
When they’re able to stay clean, the Blazers have a solid defense that has won them multiple games this season. Arguably the best defense in their conference, only two teams rushed for more than 150 yards against them, one of which was Georgia. Their defensive line is stout, and they rank 11th in rushing yards allowed and 15th in yards conceded per play.
Offensively, running back DeWayne McBride has had a stellar second half of the season, rushing for nearly 800 yards in UAB’s final six games. However, he suffered an injury in their season-ending game against UTEP, and his status is unknown for the bowl game.
His running ability opens things up downfield for quarterback Dylan Hopkins, whose two main targets are receiver Trea Shropshire (his 27.7 yards per catch leads all players in college football) and tight end Gerrit Prince, who is best among all tight ends with 20.5 yards per catch.
Trea Shropshire finished the regular season as the 𝐍𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐥 𝐋𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐞𝐫 in Yards Per Reception (27.28).#WinAsOne pic.twitter.com/E5GmBAsUM3— UAB Football (@UAB_FB) November 28, 2021
Trea Shropshire finished the regular season as the 𝐍𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐥 𝐋𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐞𝐫 in Yards Per Reception (27.28).#WinAsOne pic.twitter.com/E5GmBAsUM3
McBride also helps his team control the clock, with UAB ranking 22nd in time of possession this season.
One item of note, UAB will be without its backup quarterback and its third best receiver for the bowl game, both of whom have entered the transfer portal.
The Cougars will be disappointed they were not in a higher-profile bowl game, following an outstanding season that saw them play five teams from the Pac-12, all of whom they defeated.
This includes a 26-17 victory in Week 2 against the Pac-12 champion, Utah, and a 35-31 victory at USC, in which the Cougars led 28-13 early in the third quarter and scored a late touchdown to seal a win.
Despite losing Zach Wilson to the NFL, BYU’s offense was actually better this year. The main piece of that attack is running back Tyler Allgeier, whose 20 touchdowns are tied for the most in the nation. He has run for more than 1,400 yards this season, and the fourth-year sophomore will likely be playing his final game for the Cougars on Saturday.
Tyler Allgeier has been UNBELIEVABLE for BYU the last two seasons 💪His 94.1 Rushing Grade since 2020 is 2nd among all RBs 💥 pic.twitter.com/4mZlZet43e— PFF College (@PFF_College) December 14, 2021
Tyler Allgeier has been UNBELIEVABLE for BYU the last two seasons 💪His 94.1 Rushing Grade since 2020 is 2nd among all RBs 💥 pic.twitter.com/4mZlZet43e
Quarterback Jaren Hall threw for nearly 2,600 yards and 20 touchdowns on just 189 completions, and is an elusive runner when pressured. He leads a Cougars offense that has racked up 500 or more yards of offense in each of their last three games, and is one of the most efficient in the nation.
BYU has scored on all but six of its 52 trips into the redzone this season, with a touchdown success rate of 73 percent. Additionally, the Cougars rank fifth in the nation in offensive success rate, and 12th in third- and fourth-down success, including converting on 47 percent of their third-down attempts.
BYU does not have any players who opted out of the game and will get back key players from injury. The Cougars welcome back a starting safety and linebacker from injury, as well as two starting offensive linemen, plus wide receiver Gunner Romney, whose 539 receiving yards are second best on the team.
UAB has had a solid season and came up just short against UTSA, but it has faced nowhere near the schedule — nor beaten the caliber of opposition — that BYU has this season.
Not only have the Cougars weathered that tough schedule, they took down multiple conference champions and went 6-1 against teams from Power 5 conferences. UAB has beaten just two teams that will play in bowls this season, both conference foes who finished 7-5.
BYU’s size on the offensive line, and talent across the board on offense, will be too much for UAB’s defense to stop, especially in the redzone. The Blazers also will not have the recent offensive spark from McBride. Even if he plays, it will not be at his best, which limits the team's big-play ability off play-action.
With the penalty issues that UAB has, it will find itself in a hole it cannot escape from as the game winds down.
Bowl bits:Advantage BYU FBS ranksBYU 4th down conv offense: 18thUAB 4th down conv defense: 79thBYU red zone scoring off: 29thUAB red zone scoring def: 93rd--Advantage UAB FBS ranksBYU 4th down conv def: 102ndUAB 4th down conv off: 33rdBYU TOP: 77thUAB TOP: 22nd— Greg Wrubell (@gregwrubell) December 13, 2021
Bowl bits:Advantage BYU FBS ranksBYU 4th down conv offense: 18thUAB 4th down conv defense: 79thBYU red zone scoring off: 29thUAB red zone scoring def: 93rd--Advantage UAB FBS ranksBYU 4th down conv def: 102ndUAB 4th down conv off: 33rdBYU TOP: 77thUAB TOP: 22nd
A seven-point spread should be easily managed by BYU’s powerful and balanced offense, so lay the points in this one but buy the hook to protect against a push.
For a Same Game Combo play, combine that wager with a BYU team total of over 30.5, a point total the Cougars have surpassed in each of their last four games.
Score prediction: BYU 34, UAB 24
Our predictive engine is calling for BYU to win outright.
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