I'm slammed right now but realized that I need to toss these "Predicting the Season" posts up more steadily or they'll run into the season. It's that close now.
Game 7: The UTEP Miners at the UAB Blazers (Saturday, October 16, 2010)
The Blazers lost their best player, Joe Webb, who is now playing a little receiver and quarterback with Brett Favre up in Minnesota. Miner fans remember Joe Webb and are glad to see him off to the NFL. If you recall, last season Webb passed for two touchdowns, rushed for one, and actually caught a fourth in the Blazers 38-33 victory over UTEP at the Sun Bowl.
Coach Neil Callaway has handed the reigns over to David Isabelle, a player with a similar skill set to Webb. By that, I mean Isabelle can attack the defense with his legs or his feet; he's a gifted dual threat QB. Reports out of Birmingham show that he probably isn't as good throwing the ball as Webb was, but he should be able to move the chains against a typical C-USA defense. Isabelle finished second last year at UAB in rushing yards with just under 300.
I asked Steve Irvine of the Birmingham News what UAB fans could reasonable expect out of UAB in 2010. His answer might sound a lot like what a Miner fan would say about UTEP:
It's pretty simply, anything short of becoming bowl eligible is a failure. Obviously, it will be hard to replace Joe Webb but the Blazers appear to be solid throughout the rest of the lineup.
Last year, UAB was stellar on the ground, averaging just under 230 yards per game. Their victory over UTEP last season sent both squads into different streaks. After beating Tulsa, the UAB loss pushed UTEP into a four game losing streak that cost the Miners a chance at a winning season and bowl game. UAB, fresh off the win, strung together a three game winning streak.
Defensively, the Blazers bring back four linebackers with starting experience including stud Lamanski Ware. They bring back experienced players along the defensive line and at safety. DB Hiram Atwater had a breakout season last year and Elliott Henigan is their best pass rusher. They both return.
When it comes to coaching, UAB is the opposite of UTEP. At UTEP, it seems, we have a different defensive coordinator every season or two, while at UAB Callaway has kept his staff together for four full seasons. That consistency has to help them some now, right? Callaway needs to win this season as he's a lowly 11-25 in three seasons at UAB.