North Texas Mean Green vs. UAB Blazers - 11/30/19 NCAA Football Pick, Odds, and Prediction
UAB Blazers at North Texas Mean Green
Saturday, November 30, 2019 at 4:00 PM (Apogee Stadium)
North Texas -1.5; Total 52.5
UAB’s hopes to reach the Conference USA title game come down to the final game of the season at Apogee Stadium in Denton, Texas when the Blazers (8-3, 5-2 C-USA) take on the North Texas Mean Green (4-7, 3-4 C-USA). With the Conference USA West Division being so crowded at the top of the conference, UAB needs to win, then get some help to represent the West in the conference title game.
With UAB knocked off a short-handed team from Louisiana Tech last week, it created a logjam at the top of the West Division with three teams tied with 5-2 records, and all three teams have defeated each other. UAB defeated Louisiana Tech, who beat Southern Miss, who beat UAB. So for the Blazers to win the division, they need to win and they need Southern Miss to lose to Florida Atlantic. With that, UAB would hold the tiebreaker over Louisiana Tech and win the division.
It gets interesting if all three teams win, though. If that happens and the three teams finish with 6-2 records, the first seven tiebreaker criteria would not break the tie, so it would go to tiebreaker number eight, which is average computer ranking from five different ranking systems. Heading into this week, UAB is ranked first in one ranking, but behind the other two teams in consideration in the other four, so an impressive win will be needed for the Blazers.
UAB does, however, seem to be playing its best football of the season to end the year. The Blazers are 5-2 in their last seven games and one of those losses was against Tennessee. Interestingly enough, UAB is 2-1 since sophomore quarterback Tyler Johnston III went down with a knee injury. Freshman Dylan Hopkins has filled in to lead the team to a pair of wins and even set a season-best in rushing in the 37-10 win over UTEP with 163 yards on the ground. It was the most rushing yards by a Blazer in two seasons.
Johnston III is questionable to return this week against North Texas, but it would be a welcome return despite his interception issue this year. He has passed for 1,899 yards and 15 touchdowns, but he has thrown 13 interceptions which is tied for fourth-worst in FBS. Things weren’t much better with Hopkins in the game, though, as he passed for three touchdowns and four interceptions. Junior Austin Watkins leads the team with 883 yards receiving and five touchdowns, while senior Kendall Parham leads the team with six touchdown receptions. Watkins is seventh in FBS averaging 21.0 yards per reception and Parham is 13th in the same category at 20.3 yards per catch.
North Texas simply hasn’t had the ability to slow down its opposition to find a whole lot of success this year. Its defense ranks 107th out of 130 FBS teams allowing 33.1 points per game, which is just too much to expect to win many games. North Texas has allowed more than 40 points four times this year and more than 30 points in seven of 11 games this year. While UAB’s offense is clearly not high powered, ranking 94th in FBS scoring 24.0 points per game, it’s easy to imagine a bigger offensive output against the Mean Green defense, especially if Johnson III returns.
North Texas has lost three of its last four and five of its last seven, including a loss last week to Rice, which had won just one game previously. Rice was actually up 20-0 at the half before holding on for a 20-14 win. The Mean Green are known for their offense, which scores 31.5 points per game, but in their last two games, they are averaging scoring just 15.5 points per game, which won’t be successful at all when their defense is what it is.
Senior quarterback Mason Fine ranks 22nd in FBS with 2,820 yards passing and tied for 14th with 27 touchdown passes. He has also just thrown seven interceptions in 380 attempts. Sophomore Tre Siggers averages six yards per carry and has rushed for 830 yards and six touchdowns, while junior Jaelon Darden is tied for eighth in FBS with 11 touchdown receptions to go along with 655 receiving yards. Senior Michael Lawrence has 617 yards receiving as well.
This is an interesting matchup. It is senior day for North Texas and despite a 4-7 overall record, the Mean Green is 4-1 at home with the only loss coming against a tough Houston team. In fact, North Texas is averaging winning by 22.8 points per game in those four home wins. But UAB definitely has the motivation to not only win, but win impressively. With the Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech games starting just 30 minutes earlier, the Blazers won’t know the outcome of those games until late.
North Texas is so much better at home, and UAB is much worse on the road. The Blazers’ last two losses were on the road and they lost by an average of 25.0 points per game. In addition, UAB has been horrible against the spread as a road underdog, losing both times in that circumstance. The Blazers may have the motivation, but on senior day, take North Texas and its big-time offense to not only win but cover the 1.5 points to get you a win.