UAB at Rice
When and Where: Saturday, Oct. 13, Rice Stadium, Houston, Texas, 1 p.m. EDT.
UAB looks to maintain at least a share of the lead in the West Division of Conference USA on Saturday when it goes for a fourth consecutive victory at the expense of struggling Rice.
The Blazers (4-1, 2-0 C-USA West) are tied with Texas-San Antonio for first place in the West, and both teams are one-half game ahead of Southern Miss. UAB will try to take advantage of a Rice team that has dropped five straight and yet to defeat an FBS school.
Blazers looking for first four-game win streak since reviving program last season
UAB has not won four in a row since Sept. 25-Oct. 15, 2004, a drought that includes the two seasons it did not have a program from 2015-16. The Blazers won three straight last year in their return to FBS, including a 52-21 thrashing of Rice.
This season, the defense has stepped to the forefront aside from their breakdowns in their lone loss, a 47-24 setback at Coastal Carolina. UAB has allowed 38 points in its four wins and only 14 in the last two contests after stifling Louisiana Tech 28-7 on the road last Saturday.
The Blazers held the Bulldogs to 258 yards, recorded five sacks and three takeaways while moving up to second among FBS teams in passing yards allowed and 11th in total defense.
This defense is for real. UAB's national ranks…
— UAB Football (@UAB_FB) October 7, 2018
Blazers coach Bill Clark, though, has been quick to remind his team how quickly it can all go away as he uses the loss to the Chanticleers as an example.
“All we have to do is back track to Coastal Carolina,” he explained in his Monday press conference. “Each week we have to stay humble. Each team is fighting for their lives. The challenge is going to be living in this moment.
“Rice has a heavy set, big people, going to the huddle, using the clock on offense. Defensively they are coming into our own. They have dynamic players.”
UAB has one of its own offensively in sophomore running back Spencer Brown, who has 455 yards and six touchdowns after totaling 90 yards and a pair of scores at Louisiana Tech. While his yards per carry has slipped to 4.5 from 5.3 his freshman season when he totaled 1,329 yards, Brown is on pace for a second straight 1,000-yard season and to better his mark of 10 TDs from 2017.
The Blazers will need A.J. Erdely to shake off his worst performance of the season after completing just 8 of 24 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown with an interception. He did compensate by rushing for a season-high 76 yards and a score, but his five INTs in 121 attempts already exceed his total for all of last season when he had four in 338 passes.
Rice out to end nine-game conference losing streak
The Owls (1-5, 0-2 West) have lost nine straight Conference USA games and 15 of 16 overall since defeating Texas-El Paso on Sept. 9, 2017.
Their lone win was a three-point squeaker over Prairie View A&M, and things have not been much better against FBS teams following a 20-3 home loss to Texas-San Antonio last weekend.
Rice was limited to a season-low 222 yards and committed a season-worst four turnovers, giving it 11 miscues in the past four games. Three of the turnovers directly led to 17 points for the Roadrunners as the short fields created by those mistakes overshadowed a strong defensive effort that saw Rice limit UTSA to 178 total yards.
“Our offense did not perform,” said Rice coach Mike Bloomgren, who switched to Jackson Tyner at quarterback in the first half, to the Houston Chronicle. “Where we’re going to start pointing the finger right now with our offense is at me.
“I did everything I knew to do to jump-start an offense today that was struggling and nothing worked. Point the finger squarely at me, we will get it fixed.”
Shawn Stankavage will likely retain his starter’s role after going 15 for 27 for 158 yards with an interception. The senior has thrown for 932 yards and nine touchdowns but also has been picked off seven times.
— Rice Football (@RiceFootball) October 8, 2018
The lone bright spot offensively was running back Austin Walter setting a career high with 1,161 all-purpose yards as he became the second player in school history with 1,500 rushing yards, 1,000 kickoff return yards and 500 receiving yards.
Rice punter Jack Fox also has made contributions to bail out the offense as he ranks seventh nationally with a net average of 42.9 yards. He as averaged 44.4 yards on 32 punts while putting 10 of them inside the opposing 10-yard line.
- 2-7 ATS in its last nine home games.
- 1-6 ATS in its last seven games after accumulating less than 275 yards in its previous game.
- 1-4 ATS in its last five games after a straight up loss.
- The under is 4-1 in its last five home games vs. teams with a winning road record.
- The under is 5-2 in its last seven games after accumulating less than 100 rushing yards in its previous game.
- 13-3-1 ATS in its last 17 games vs. Conference USA teams.
- 7-2-1 ATS in its last 10 games as a favorite.
- 3-0-1 ATS in its last four games as a favorite of 10.5 or more points.
- The under is 12-2 in its last 14 games.
- The under is 6-1 in its last seven road games.
- The under is 4-0 in its last four games as a favorite of 10.5 or more points.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
This is a case of two teams clearly trending in opposite directions. Rice’s loss to UTSA looks more respectable on the surface because the Roadrunners do not have an elite offense, and one should look at the previous four losses in which the Owls allowed 184 points as a more reliable guide to their lack of quality on that side of the ball.
UAB does have some kinks to work out offensively after Erdely struggled, but a steady diet of Brown running the ball should help his quarterback rebound with an efficient enough effort to cover the large road number.
Prediction: Pick: UAB -16.5
Full-Game Total Pick
While Rice’s defense has struggled, UAB’s offense has not exactly been lights out, scoring 28 points in each of their last two wins while totaling 695 yards. The Blazers had averaged 477.3 yards in their first three games before slowing down some. It may be right around the number, but look for the teams to come up just short of it as UAB wins comfortably.
Prediction: Pick: UNDER 54 points
Full-Game Prop Bet
Half-Time Side Pick
The Blazers are giving 9.5 points in the first half and while tempting, the safer and smarter play is to take them straight up in the money line as the expectation is they will pull away from the Owls in this contest.
Prediction: Pick: UAB -460
Half-Time Total Bet
Rice’s defense could make the opening two quarters a grind for UAB — the Owls defense was more the victim of its offense than anything Texas-San Antonio did moving the ball last week. They also have been competitive in their two home losses to FBS opponents.
Prediction: Pick: UNDER 27 points
Half-Time Prop Prediction
Again, sticking with the more conservative play of the money line as opposed to the Blazers giving 4.5 points in this instance. The Blazers did not score in the first quarter last week at Louisiana Tech, making the spread an iffy proposition.
Prediction: Pick: UAB -450 1st quarter