UAB Still Hopes For Bowl Entering Conference Play
By Dan Harralson
In a sense, UAB's 2013 season starts Saturday against FAU.
The Blazers have concluded their traditional two top-tier games against BCS opponents along with their matchup against Troy and FCS school Northwestern State.
The real season begins now, and there is little room for margin of error. UAB has to win five of their eight conference games to go bowling.
The good news is that Garrick McGee's Blazers are still receiving national recognition. CBS Sports' Jerry Palm has UAB making a bowl in his weekly bowl projections: the Hawaii Bowl, Christmas Eve against Wyoming.
UAB easily can begin conference play 3-0 with games against FAU and winnable road contests at FIU and UTSA. After the trio of opening games, UAB will need to muster two wins against a tougher slate of conference opponents. Homecoming against MTSU, road contests at Marshall and ECU, and home games against Rice and Southern Miss to conclude the regular season will be a task to come out with at least two wins and go bowling.
But it all kicks off Saturday for McGee and the UAB Blazers. Their opponent, FAU, comes into Legion Field with a 1-4 record. The Owls' lone win came at South Florida in a 28-10 win over the Bulls. FAU is giving up 216 yards on the ground, something McGee likes to see in this matchup. UAB has two running backs in Darrin Reaves and Jordan Howard who are putting up solid numbers, especially against the level of competition that the Blazers have played.
Reaves has produced 411 rushing yards and Howard has run for 218 in just three games. It wouldn't be a surprise if both backs eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark this season.
It's not always about the numbers, but on Saturday, one figure is glaring for UAB's ground game. Reaves (102.8 rushing yards per game) and Howard (72.7) combine for 175.5 rushing yards per game. That stacks up nicely against an FAU rush defense giving up 216 yards per game on the ground.
Wide receiver Jamarcus Nelson still is questionable for the FAU game after Nelson left last week's Vanderbilt game with an injured ankle.
"He's still in a boot," McGee said. "I think he's feeling a little better, but his strength is his speed and how fast he is, so we've got to be careful with him this week and see if we can get something out of him towards the end of the week."
Nelson has 21 receptions for 370 yards and already has scored six touchdowns this year. Four have came through the air, one on a kick return and one on a punt return. With McGee's top receiver questionable for the conference opener, it should allow Reaves and Howard to continue building on their already-solid ground game.