then to change my mind. The Miners will travel to Birmingham looking to return with a win, and perhaps some respect. Even though the Miners enter the game with a 5-1 record, and the Blazers bring a record of 1-4 into the game, the oddsmakers in Las Vegas have made the Miners a 2.5 point underdog. Judging from the attendance for the Miners' last two home games, even many in El Paso don't believe the Miners deserve their respect.
When UAB came to the Sun Bowl for the first time, it was said that Blazers' quarterback, Darrell Hackney pissed on the Sun Bowl turf during practice. I don't know if that really happened, but it would be in keeping with the lack of respect shown by the Blazers' players during the game. As I watched from the stands, I began to develop an intense dislike for UAB. Nothing has happened since ...
Back in June, I wrote that I thought that this game would be a tough, but close, win. When I look at some of this season's stats, it shows indications that reinforce that prediction. The Miners' high octane offense is averaging 431 yards per game. But, when you look at UAB, they are averaging pretty close to that, with 407 yards per game. There are more similarities. The Miners are rushing for 168 ypg, and the Blazers are averaging 169 ypg. But, the Miners are a passing team, you say. The Miners are averaging 263 ypg through the air, but once again, the Blazers are not close behind with 238 ypg. Well, perhaps the defenses will tell us something to put some separation between these two teams. UTEP's defense is allowing opponents 144 yards per game on the ground. UAB is giving up 151 ypg. There is a little more difference in their passing defenses. UTEP is allowing 206 ypg, and UAB is allowing 253 ypg through the air. That is not a huge difference.
But, there are some areas that could tell us more about this match-up. The Miners are averaging 32.5 points per game. UTEP's scoring offense ranks 40th in the country. UAB's scoring offense is ranked 88th and the Blazers are averaging 21.6 ppg. The Blazers have a bit of a tough time scoring once they get into the red-zone. They are only averaging scoring 63% of the time, and even worse, they are only scoring touchdowns 44% of the time. On the other hand, UTEP's scoring defense is ranked 48th in the country, while UAB's scoring defense is ranked 104th.
To summarize, the Miners are very efficient in scoring, especially touchdowns, once they get into the red-zone, and very tough to score against, especially touchdowns, when opponents get inside the Miners' own 20 yard line. The Blazers have trouble scoring, especially touchdowns, once they get in the red-zone, and have trouble stopping opponents from scoring once they get inside the Blazers 20.
Another set of numbers jumped out at me. Take a look at the scoring by quarters;
|Quarter 1 2 3 4
UAB 28 14 28 32
Opp. 30 63 31 34
UTEP 51 51 63 30
OPP. 45 40 6 40
The second and third quarters are huge for both teams. The Blazers seem to fall apart in the second quarter, and the Miners seem to put it all together in the third quarter.
The Blazers have two quarterbacks that are seeing a lot of action. Bryan Ellis is averaging 231.5 ypg passing. But, in the 4 games he has been in, he has thrown 5 interceptions. David Isabelle is averaging 52.8 ypg passing, but he adds another 77.8 ypg rushing. He has been picked off twice in 5 games.
There is one final thing that I think should be mentioned. UAB has a defensive end named Bryant Turner who has registered 5 sacks this season. The Miners offensive line has done a great job of protecting Trevor Vittatoe. This may be the best match-up of the day to watch.
I think both teams will play right to their stats. UTEP is scoring 32.5 ppg and allowing opponents to average 22.8 ppg. The Blazers are scoring 21.6 ppg and giving up 33.4 ppg. So, let's make it UTEP 33 and add 4 points for Home Field Advantage to UAB's 23 points, to make the final score UTEP 33 and UAB 27.