This week's edition of the 2011 Florida Gators Predictions features the UAB Blazers.
The University of Alabama-Birmingham, or UAB for short, may be in the same state as SEC rivals Auburn and Alabama, but the similarities between the teams are few. In 2010, the Blazers were 4-8 (3-5 C-USA) with loses against teams such as FAU, Southern Methodist, Marshall, East Carolina, and Rice. Nevertheless, they had the 24th ranked passing offense and the 30th ranked overall offense. On defense, UAB was 80th on total defense (fairing better against the rush).
UAB, has yet to have a winning season since 2004, where they went 7-5 with a loss to Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl. Despite that fact, UAB has managed to maintain consistency, with a 4-8 record in 2008 and a 5-7 record in 2009. Therefore, for the past three years the Blazers have only had a win difference of one game.
The real question lies with what the Gators should look out for on the UAB team. Blazer QB Bryan Ellis is the number one player who needs to be controlled. In games that Ellis has led the Blazers to victory, he averages a 158.63 passer rating. But in games where the Blazers have lost, he averages a 112.47 passer rating. John Brantley averaged a passer rating of 127.99 in wins, and 96.99 in loses. Ellis also threw for 2940 yars, 25 TD, and 12 INT with a 56.2 completion percentage. The downside of Ellis is also his upside, if he is in a good rhythm he is very dangerous. But as shown in his passer rating in loses, he drops about 46 points. Florida better hope he has a slow start to his season.
Another player the Gators need to look out for is HB Pat Shed. Out of all the games in the season, he only averaged below 4 yards per carry in three of them. He ended the year with a 5.4 average. What UAB could end up doing is play an aggressive style against Florida in which they utilize a running game their opponents would not have prepared for as much as their passing game. After all, the Blazers only averaged 59th in the FBS for rushing.
Finally, the Gators need to look out especially for the Blazer receiving corps. At first glance, they don't look overly impressive. But then it becomes apparent that this is because the distribution of the ball is widespread. The top four receivers have 558 yards, 536 yards, 532 yards, and 471 yards respectively. The top five receivers all have a long of over 50 yards with all but one of them resulting in a TD. They pass the ball around so much, that even QB Bryan Ellis has a reception for a 1 yard gain.
Arguably, this team could be said to be better or worse than Florida's first opponent, FAU. The Owls only had 108th ranked overall offense, yet still managed to win the same amount of games, including their 32-31 opener win against UAB. However, the Blazers are better statistically than the Owls, so it could be considered a fluke. But what it really boils down to, is that UAB and FAU are of an equal caliber.
Like FAU, Florida should not have much of a problem with non-conference opponent UAB.
After warming up against FAU the week before, the Gators begin to pick up the stride a bit and defeat UAB 42-10
2011 Football Schedule Prediction
9/17/2011 vs. Tennessee
9/24/2011 at Kentucky
10/01/2011 vs. Alabama
10/08/2011 at LSU
10/15/2011 at Auburn
10/22/2011 Bye Week
10/29/2011 vs. Georgia*
11/05/2011 vs. Vanderbilt
11/12/2011 at South Carolina
11/19/2011 vs. Furman
11/26/2011 vs. Florida State