There will be major implications in Conference USA this week when the UAB Blazers host the North Texas Mean Green. Game time is scheduled for 7:30 EST on Saturday, October 20, at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama. Fans will be able to watch the game on beIN Sports.
The Blazers began the week as 1-point favorites. However, early betting has favored North Texas heavily, making the Mean Green 1-point favorites on the road. Click here to check out a full list of college football odds and previews for this week’s game.
In just the program’s second season back following a two-year hiatus, UAB is in a position to compete for a conference championship. The Blazers are 5-1 to open the season, with their only loss coming in their second game of the season against Coastal Carolina. Since then, UAB has rattled off four consecutive wins, including last week’s 42-0 blowout of Rice.
The most important part of UAB’s fast start to the season is that they’re 3-0 inside Conference-USA. There are four teams, including North Texas, in the C-USA West division that have just one loss in conference play and are hot on their trail. However, if they can beat the Mean Green, UAB’s schedule sets up nicely for them to go undefeated inside the conference. With a win on Saturday, the Blazers could even lose a game and still finish atop the C-USA West division.
The Mean Green has also gotten off to a fast start in 2018. North Texas is currently 6-1, including wins over SMU and Arkansas. However, their one loss was a conference clash with Louisiana Tech, giving them some ground to make up inside the C-USA West division. If the Mean Green don’t beat UAB on Saturday, their chances of repeating as West division champions and returning to the C-USA title game will be slim. Even though UNT is already bowl eligible, in a way, their season is on the line in this game.
A year ago, these two teams played a high-scoring thriller that saw the Mean Green win 46-43 on a late field goal. The Blazers will surely be looking for some redemption for that game, especially being at home with so much at stake.
As you can tell by the low spread, this game is essentially a toss-up, and for good reason. Both teams have displayed obvious strengths and managed to win games in impressive fashion throughout the first part of the season. However, I think I like the Mean Green’s resume a little more than I like UAB’s resume. With North Texas being the home team, it makes it a little easier to lean toward them to win.
While both teams can score points, they do so in different ways. For UAB, it’s all about the running game. Quarterback A.J. Erdely can throw the ball a little bit, and he’s not afraid to take shots down the field, which will come in handy if this game turns into a shootout. However, his accuracy is lacking with a 57% completion rate. He’s also thrown five interceptions to just seven touchdown passes this season. Erdely is far more comfortable running the ball, forming a nice tandem with running back Spencer Brown to help make the Blazers one of the better running teams in the country.
Meanwhile, North Texas isn’t afraid to air it out with quarterback Mason Fine, who is averaging over 300 yards passing per game. Even more impressive is the fact that Fine has 16 touchdown passes to just one interception. It’s fair to question the level of competition he’s faced, but that’s still incredible productivity and ball security, especially when he’s completing 65% of his passes and averaging better than eight yards per pass attempt.
Both of these teams have also excelled on the defensive side of the ball. After getting torched in their loss to Coastal Carolina early in the year, the Blazers have allowed a total of 38 points over their last four games and just 14 over their last three games. North Texas hasn’t been quite that stout, although they are giving up less than 18 points per game on the season, which is incredible considering that they’ve played a tougher schedule than UAB.
In the end, I think North Texas is better able to handle UAB’s strengths than the other way around. The Mean Green has consistently been able to keep opposing running games in check. If the Blazers can’t run the ball with their usual efficiency, I’m not sure Erdely is a good enough passer to give UAB a Plan B. On the other side, a quarterback of Fine’s experience and precision will be difficult to contain for four quarters. Whether it’s a shootout or a defensive slugfest, I think the Mean Green have more ways to end up on top. I’ll lean toward North Texas to win a virtual tossup against UAB.