The first full week of the college football season gets started on Wednesday night with the Montgomery Kickoff as the UAB Blazers play the Jacksonville State Gamecocks. The game will be played at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, with the Blazers listed as 14.5-point favorites. The game also has an over/under of 47.5 points.
Under head coach John Grass, the Gamecocks have been a regular participant in the FCS Playoffs. During the 2020-21 season that ended this past spring, Jacksonville State went 10-3, winning the Ohio Valley Conference title and reaching the FCS Quarterfinals. They also gave Florida State a run for its money early in the 2020 campaign.
Of course, the Blazers know a thing or two about conference championships, winning the C-USA title twice in the last three seasons. Bill Clark’s team is coming off a 6-3 season in 2020 and is one of the favorites to win the C-USA title again. Of course, the Blazers could also be distracted with a date with the Georgia Bulldogs on the schedule next weekend.
Blazing from the Start?
The UAB offense will be led by Tyler Johnston III, who has more than two years of starting experience under his belt despite missing a decent chunk of the 2020 season with a shoulder injury. However, the Blazers have questions after losing their top two receivers and their leading rusher from last season. The hope is that Johnston’s experience and a strong offensive should help get the UAB offense going early in the year.
Meanwhile, Clark and the Blazers typically have one of the best defenses in Conference USA. That should be the case again in 2021, with UAB bringing in a handful of transfers to help plug the gaps for departed players. UAB’s starters on defense are exclusively juniors and seniors, so there is a ton of experience coming back from last year’s excellent defense.
We’re Behind You, Coop
Jacksonville State is a legitimate threat to win this game behind quarterback Zerrick Cooper. After starting his career as a backup at Clemson, Cooper has become a star with the Gamecocks, throwing for over 3,000 yards in 2018 and 2019, only to miss the spring portion of last season with an injury. While he can struggle with turnovers and accuracy at times, Cooper is also a mobile quarterback who will challenge defenses with his legs.
Meanwhile, the Jacksonville State defense is far better than most defenses at the FCS level. DJ Coleman is a pass-rusher with NFL potential while the rest of the Jacksonville State defensive front is able to hold up against the run. While it was against FCS opponents, the Gamecocks allowed just 14.8 points per game during their nine-game season in the spring, including a couple of FCS Playoff games.
Not This Time
While Jacksonville State is a great candidate to give FBS teams trouble, the Blazers will take care of business on Wednesday night. The UAB defense is good enough to handle Cooper, while the UAB offensive line should win the battle in the trenches. It’ll be close early but bet on UAB to pull away in the second half and cover the 14.5-point spread.
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