Florida Atlantic Owls vs. UAB Blazers - 12/7/19 College Football Pick, Odds, and Prediction
UAB Blazers at Florida Atlantic Owls
Saturday, December 7, 2019 at 1:30 PM (FAU Football Stadium)
Florida Atlantic -7.5; Total 48.5
The last two Conference USA champions will battle in Boca Raton, Fla. on Saturday for this year’s C-USA title when defending champion UAB (9-3, 6-2 C-USA) travels to the FAU Football Stadium to take on Florida Atlantic (9-3, 7-1 C-USA). The Blazers won on the road last season in a thrilling 27-25 victory over Middle Tennessee State while the Owls crushed North Texas at home two seasons ago, 41-17.
UAB had to have a win last week over North Texas while needing FAU to knock off Southern Miss in order to the Blazers to reach the C-USA championship game. Both happened, with UAB taking a third quarter lead and shutting out the Mean Green in the fourth quarter for a 26-21 win while the Owls had less trouble, winning 34-17, setting up a battle between the two teams for the C-USA title.
The two teams haven’t met since 2014, when UAB edged the Owls 31-28 in Boca Raton. Florida Atlantic won the previous three meetings -- two of which took place in Birmingham -- and holds a 4-2 all-time record against the Blazers.
Against North Texas, UAB didn’t have a great day offensively, but the Blazers did put its 15th-ranked scoring defense in FBS to work, allowing just 289 yards to the Mean Green. The Blazers, also ranked fifth in FBS in rushing defense and sixth in passing defense, allowed just 21 yards on the ground even though North Texas quarterback Mason Fine was a rare opponent to find holes in the secondary throwing for 268 yards, which is more than 90 yards more than UAB allows on average through the air this season.
Spencer Brown, the 2018 C-USA championship game most valuable player, has been hot and cold this season battling injuries in the middle of the season, but appears to be fully recovered after a 19-carry, 111-yard, and one-touchdown game in the win over North Texas. Brown was spectacular in last year’s C-USA title game, rushing for 156 yards and a touchdown and being the difference in the game last year. Now, back at full health, he will look to repeat that performance this year.
It comes as no surprise that in the two games UAB was blown out in this season against Tennessee and Southern Miss by scores of 30-7 and 37-2 respectively, Brown carried the ball a combined three times for two yards.
Lucious Stanley creates a two-headed rushing attack for UAB as he carried the ball 14 times for 72 yards and a touchdown against North Texas. Backup quarterback Dylan Hopkins only needed to complete 6-of-12 passes for 99 yards to secure the win over the Mean Green as regular starter Tyler Johnston III continues to recover from a knee injury suffered against Tennessee. It is unclear if he will be available to play in the C-USA title game this week. Kendall Parham was the leading receiver, catching two passes for 60 yards.
After opening the season with back-to-back losses against nationally-ranked opponents, Florida Atlantic has been on fire. The Owls opened with what now appears to be a very respectable 45-21 loss at Ohio State, followed by a 48-14 loss to Central Florida. But since that time, the Owls have gone 9-1 with a 36-31 defeat against Marshall in Boca Raton as the lone blemish in that stretch. In those nine wins, Florida Atlantic is averaging winning by 20.7 points per game.
But while UAB is one of the absolute elite defenses in FBS, the Owls can be scored on. They are allowing 23.7 points per game, but have allowed more than 40 points twice this year, more than 30 points four times, and more than 20 points seven times. Competing against a team that allows just 18.5 points per game, allowing that many points may be the thing that pushes UAB over the top.
Chris Robison led the Owls in the win over Southern Miss with three touchdown passes despite completing just 8-of-19 passes for 156 yards. FAU used a running back by committee approach with eight different players carrying the ball with BJ Emmons getting 11 rushes for 71 yards and a touchdown. Harrison Bryant caught all three of Robison’s touchdown passes in his only three catches of the game for 75 yards.
On the year, Robison ranks 19th in FBS with 3,129 passing yards with 22 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Incredibly, 15 different players have carried the ball for the Owls this season, led by Malcolm Davidson’s 583 yards and nine touchdowns on 91 carries. Bryant needs 35 yards against UAB as he leads Florida Atlantic in receiving yards with 965.
This is going to be a question of how much the Owls will be able to score against one of the best defenses in the country. There is little doubt that Lane Kiffin will have a smart game plan in place, but when the team has been healthy on offense and defense, no one has scored more than 21 against UAB this season. In those games (aside from the injury-plagued games against Tennessee and Southern Miss), the Blazers are averaging scoring 29.2 points per game.
It appears that this will be a close game and picking a winner against the spread is going to be incredibly difficult. But with UAB’s defense and a defense from Florida Atlantic that still ranks in the top third of FBS at 44th out of 150, allowing 23.7 points per game, going under the total appears to be the right play. In addition, the over has hit in just one of six of the Owls’ home games while UAB has gone under in four of its six road games with one push. It just makes sense -- go with the under and cheer for a UAB shutout.