Bowl season is officially here, and despite the large number of players opting out of the games or transferring, there isn't much better than starting a Friday with an 11:30 AM kick-off. With that said, we'll preview and give our picks for today's Bahamas Bowl between Miami (OH) and UAB.
The Miami (OH) Redhawks finished the season with a (6-6) record and have had an interesting few weeks leading up to today's game. Quarterback Brett Gabbert entered the transfer portal but ultimately decided to return to Miami (OH); however, he will not be available for today's game. This means Aveon Smith will get the start at quarterback, as he played a lot this season while Gabbert was injured.
The Redhawks' offense was less than impressive this season, averaging just 19.3 points and 300.3 yards per game. Miami (OH) relied heavily on the run as they were 36th in the country in run play percentage, averaging 136.8 rushing yards a game. Aveon Smith has been a run-first quarterback leading the team with 506 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
Defense was the primary strength of this Redhawks team all season, as they allowed just 23.3 points per game and an average of only 5.3 yards per play. Their run defense was one of the best in the MAC conference and poses a significant challenge to this UAB team, who will be without star running back DeWayne McBride.
UAB actually relied on the run more than Miami (OH) this season, averaging 41.3 rushing attempts a game which is 19th in the country. With McBride not playing, that means Jermaine Brown Jr. will get the bulk of the carries, which is not the end of the world for the Blazers, as he still rushed for 832 yards and six touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Blazers allowed an average of 25.5 points per game, but they were able to limit opponents passing games by allowing an average of just 202.3 passing yards a game which was 28th in the country.
Our first play of the day will be taking the underdog in Miami (OH) at +10.5. The Redhawks won three out of their last four games, holding opponents to 23 or fewer points in each of those wins. As of right now, it seems like the Redhawks will have their entire defense playing so that strong run defense can carry that end-of-season momentum into this afternoon's game.
UAB not having DeWayne McBride changes a lot when looking at this game. The backup running back is a solid player, but it's tough to replace a guy who had over 200 carries for 1710 yards and 19 touchdowns. The Blazers only averaged 24.4 passing attempts per game, but they may need quarterback Dylan Hopkins to exceed that number today, which bodes well for the Redhawks.
Outside of their starting right guard not playing, the Miami (OH) offense should be able to operate in their usual fashion. Quarterback Aveon Smith will have the ability to use his legs to create plays today against a UAB defense that allowed an average of 177.8 rushing yards per game. Smith and the Redhawks' run defense can keep this Miami (OH) team within the number, especially with the hook.
My second play for this game is the Under of 45.5. The under was 9-3 in the Redhawks' 12 games this season, and with the question marks on offense for the Blazers, I think this one is heading for the under as well. I don't believe UAB can create consistent scoring drives and on top of that, they rank 21st in the country in time of possession, so they won't be attempting to turn this game into a face-paced shootout.
With Miami (OH) also being a run-heavy offense and averaging just .7 turnovers per game which is sixth in the country, this game could be all about who controls the clock more, which bodes nicely for the under.
Miami (OH) +10.5