Before the season began, I offered a preview of U.A.B., but, now that we have some actual games upon which to base our opinions, I would like to revisit the Bulldogs' upcoming opponent in greater detail.
While useful statistical data are still sparse this early in the campaign, certain trends may yet be gleaned from the two teams' performance thus far. To the extent that I am able, I try to present pregame breakdowns that provide you not with a little information, not with just the right amount of information, but instead with . . . Too Much Information. (This week, though, I'll be honest; it's probably just the right amount of information, but I have not yet had time to reach midseason form, so bear with me.)
Kristin Davis eagerly awaits the imparting of knowledge regarding Georgia's upcoming non-conference opponent. (Photograph from Ananova.)
This Saturday's clash pits the leading teams in the East . . . Georgia, which stands atop the Eastern Division of the S.E.C., and U.A.B., which occupies first place in the East Division of Conference U.S.A.
This weekend's visiting squad ranks second in its league in scoring defense, surrendering 18.0 points per game. The Blazers, who have permitted four touchdowns and three field goals in their first two games, will go up against a Bulldog offense averaging 33.0 points per game. Mark Richt's Georgia squads have scored at least 44 points against four of their last five non-B.C.S. conference opponents.
The U.A.B. offense is apt to run into trouble against the 'Dawgs. The Red and Black are spotting the opposition just six points per contest and they have yet to surrender a rushing touchdown. In fact, the Classic City Canines rank first in the S.E.C. against the run (51.0 rushing yards per game allowed). Points could be hard to come by for the Blazers, whose 17.0 points per game place them 10th in their conference in scoring offense.
Watson Brown's Blazers and his brother Mack's Longhorns have identical records in 2006. (Photograph from University of Alabama at Birmingham.)
Fortunately for the squad from Birmingham, the visiting team is not one-dimensional. Although U.A.B. ranks fourth in Conference U.S.A. in rushing offense (129.5 yards per game), three of the Blazers' four T.D.s this season have come by way of the forward pass. U.A.B. leads the league in passing efficiency, sporting the conference's best completion percentage (70.0%) and highest average yards per catch (9.2).
Nevertheless, the Blazers do not field what could be considered a big play offense. All four of U.A.B.'s touchdowns in 2006 were scored from inside the red zone. Sam Hunt, who will start on Saturday because he is a native Georgian, ranks 10th in Conference U.S.A. in passing (102.0 yards per game) and in total offense (136.0 yards per game).
Hunt's longest pass of the year covered 32 yards and U.A.B.'s longest running play in 2006 measured 14 yards. No Blazer ranks among the league's top 10 players in receptions or receiving yards per game.
The Blazer D has had mixed results against the pass. U.A.B. has allowed the league's third-lowest completion percentage (54.8%) while conceding Conference U.S.A.'s third-highest average yards per catch (8.2). Opposing aerial assaults have tallied 253.5 passing yards per game against the Blazers, but the squad leads the conference with three interceptions.
Alongside the Boise State Broncos and the S.M.U. Mustangs, the U.A.B. Blazers are among the very few Bulldog non-conference opponents with automobiles for mascots. (Image from Model Roundup.)
In a little over a decade of Division I-A competition, the Blazers have demonstrated a propensity for putting serious scares into B.C.S. teams, including losses by seven (17-10 at Tennessee in 2005 and 24-17 at Oklahoma in 2006), six (26-20 against Pitt in 2002), three (31-28 at Missouri in 1999, 23-20 at Kansas in 2000, and 16-13 at Georgia in 2003), and two (39-37 against Kansas in 1998), in addition to a handful of victories against major conference competition along the way: 13-10 at L.S.U. in 2000, 24-19 at Baylor in 2003, 56-14 against Baylor in 2004, and 27-13 at Mississippi State in 2004.
Expect a good game on Saturday. U.A.B. is a well-coached team and the Bulldogs will get the Blazers' best shot. Don't be surprised if the final score of this contest is closer than the deciding margins of the game before it and the game after it.