Many are asking why UAB is favored to beat UTEP when the two teams meet in a pivotal Conference USA showdown Saturday at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala.
The Blazers (1-4, 0-2 in Conference USA) are 2.5-point favorites in their fourth-ever meeting with the Miners (5-1, 2-1).
So why the love for UAB?
Is it because the Blazers haven’t won a game in 26 days?
Is it because UAB hung tough before eventually falling to a Tennessee squad that is now 2-4 and can notch Tennessee-Martin as its only other victory?
Is it because do-it-all quarterback Joe Webb, who single-handedly beat the Miners last season, moved on to the NFL?
None of those sound like good reasons.
Some will point to UTEP’s 5-16 Conference USA road record, including 11 losses in the past 12 games. Others will mention that UAB will have nine days to prepare for the Miners. A few pessimistic souls will even bring up UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe’s atrocious game against the Blazers last season.
Eh, not buying it.
For one, Trevor Vittatoe is a changed man this season. His focus this year has been refreshing and is helping make believers of not only the few fans who are showing up to the Sun Bowl, but his team as well.
The road wins thing is a bit of an anomaly. The Miners haven’t played consistent ball the last three seasons. Road losses come with that. So do home ones.
But there’s one reason UAB might have an edge in this game. A big one. Literally.
Matt McCants will line up at offensive left tackle for the Blazers. He’s a behemoth at 6-foot-7 and 295 pounds. The Blazers like to run behind him, but have plenty more sirloin to run behind on an offensive line that averages 6-foot-4 and 292 pounds across the board.
And let’s not forget that while junior Bryan Ellis will likely get the start under center for UAB, sophomore David Isabelle is a big-time threat on the ground behind that line. Isabelle set the C-USA record for most rushing yards by a quarterback back on Sept. 2 against Troy. Who held the record previously? The aforementioned Joe Webb. The Blazers are just as talented at the quarterback position this year with this two-pronged attack. And if you want to say that quarterback play did the Miners in last season, it is in position to do the trick this year.
Big test for the Miner defensive front seven this week. If they can’t get it done, it could be a long day. But if the game does come down to a field goal, you have to like UTEP’s chances with kicker Dakota Warren.