The surprising Blazers come to the Swamp looking to extend the Gators' losing streak to six in a row
Florida (3-6) has not won a game since Sept. 30 over Vanderbilt. Since that time, the Gators have lost five in a row and most likely won’t be going to a bowl game for the second time in five seasons.
UAB (7-3) on the other hand is having a fantastic season in their return to college football. The Blazers are headed to a bowl game and are currently in second place in Conference USA’s West Division.
Saturday will mark only the third ever meeting between UAB and Florida. The Gators won the previous two games by a combined score of 90-3.
UAB at Florida
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 18 at 4 p.m. ET
TV Channel: SEC Network
Spread: Florida -11
Three Things to Watch
1. UAB’s offense
The Blazers have a dynamic offense led by two underrated players. Spencer Brown is second in Conference USA and 15th in the FBS with 1,177 rushing yards, to go along with 10 touchdowns this season.
A.J. Erdely is a dual-threat quarterback who may give Florida’s defense fits with his amr and his legs. He has 1,741 passing yards, 13 touchdowns and just three interceptions, in addition to 290 rushing yards and 12 scores (third in the conference).
The Gators’ defense isn’t as stout as it has been in recent years so the UAB should have opportunities to move the ball and maybe come up with a few big plays.
“They’re explosive,” Florida interim head coach Randy Shannon said earlier this week. “Conference USA has always been an explosive conference for years. Offense is what they do.”
2. Feleipe Franks
After an injury to Malik Zaire, the Gators are changing quarterbacks for the fourth time in seven weeks. Florida will turn to Franks (above, right), who has started the five games this season, once more. After opening the season against Michigan, Franks was the starter until former head coach Jim McElwain went to Luke Del Rio in early October. Del Rio got hurt the next game, which meant Franks was back in. But following McElwain’s departure Zaire got the opportunity and was the starter the past two weeks.
In last Saturday’s 28-20 loss at South Carolina, Franks finished 10-for-25 for 174 yards and an interception. For the season he has thrown for 1,027 yards while completing 57.5 percent of his passes with as many interceptions as touchdowns (five each).
With the Gators losing two starting offensive linemen the last two weeks, it won’t be easy for Franks and the rest of the offense, which will face a UAB defense that’s 22nd in the nation in tackles for a loss (7.2 per game) and 36th against the pass (199.7 ypg).
3. Florida’s defense
Unlike recent teams, the Gators’ defense simply isn’t good enough to carry Florida. Florida is 54th in the FBS in total defense (382.9 ypg), 75th in scoring defense (28.3 ppg), and 99th in turnover margin (-4 total or -.44 per game).
Despite those stats, UAB head coach Bill Clark knows his Blazers still have a challenge on their hands.
"They are so talented up front," Clark said earlier this week. "They are great on both sides of the ball. We want to be consistent and understand the physicality we have to play with. I know what it is going to mean to them playing at home. They are going to want to play well in front of their home fans. We are going to get their very best, and that's what we have to be ready for."
UAB has already tied its record for most regular-season wins as an FBS member – a feat it also accomplished in 2000 and ‘04. But the Blazers can set a new standard with a win in the Swamp on Saturday.
It is hard to know if Florida will be motivated after losing a fifth straight game with the possibility of playing in a bowl game now removed from the equation.
The Gators are clearly more talented, but UAB will be hungry. Don’t be surprised if this one ends up closer than the point spread indicates.
Prediction: Florida 24, UAB 20
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.
(Top photo courtesy of @UAB_FB)