April 13, 2024

Hometown Lenders Tree Bahamas Bowl Preview – A Battle of Strengths

                            

Each season, college football fans look forward to the beginning of the bowl season. To start this season’s slate is the Hometown Lenders Tree Bahamas Bowl. This season’s edition will feature UAB Blazers, from CUSA, and Miami {Ohio} RedHawks, from the Mid-Atlantic Conference, who will also be playing for the first time in their history. With this being the first meeting, let’s find out about these teams and their strengths, what players stand out, and who will win the opening bowl of the season. Let’s start with these two teams. Who are they?

UAB Blazers

The University of Alabama-Birmingham, or UAB, comes into this game with a 6-6 overall record, thus achieving bowl eligibility for the seventh season of competition. Many may remember that the Blazers restarted playing football in the 2017 season. Since returning, the Blazers have had more wins than anyone in Conference USA, with 49. UAB has a 49-26 record and is the first team to win their division three years in a row, from 2018-2020, and has been a force in the conference. Versus the CUSA teams, the Blazers are 34-13 and 22-5 against western division opponents in this stretch.

The Blazers are led offensively by their running game, which comes into the game ranked fifth in the nation in rushing. To further this point, the Blazers average 243 yards per game on the ground. The yards haven’t been without meaning, as the Blazers also ranks seventeenth in the country with thirty rushing touchdowns this season. One player has made this engine run, and that is running back DeWayne McBride. McBride, who would be named CUSA Offensive Player of the Year, had the best season of any Blazer in school history while rushing for over 100 yards in ten of the eleven games. He would lead the nation in rushing yards with 1,713 rushing touchdowns, nineteen yards per carry, 7.35, 100- yard games, ten-and 200-yard games, and three. On top of that, the above stats and his play earned Walter Camp Second-TeAll-Americancan honors. This will be key to a win for the Blazers.

In recent seasons the defense has been great. I know, UAB… Defense. Great!!?? Yes, they have been, as the Blazers have been ranked in the top 20 in total defense for the past five seasons. Despite this season’s team not being ranked that high, they are still talented. To further this, the Blazers have not allowed a 300-yard passer this season and are holding opposing quarterbacks to a 57% completion rate. Coming into the bowl, the Blazers are ranked eighteenth in total defense. Senior Linebacker, Noah Wilder, will finish his career ranked third all-time in tackles with 330. Wilder could have led CUSA in tackles if he had not sustained an injury early in the final home game. He would finish ranked third in league with 3.8 tackles per game.

We have gone over who the UAB Blazers, what their strengths are, and who are some of their more talented players. Now, let’s learn about the RedHawks from Miami {Ohio}.

Miami [Ohio] RedHawks

The RedHawks come into what will be their fourteenth bowl game in school history with a 6-6 record. They also come in as the all-time winningest program in the MAC, with 713 conference wins, with 310, MAC Championships, with sixteen, and bowl wins, with eight. The Hawks would win three of their last four games to become bowl-eligible this season. This team is poised to come into the Bahamas and win the game in what was a wild season. To do that, they will need to lean on their strengths and what they do well. Let’s find out what they do well and who are some players we need to keep an eye on.

Offensively this team is built in their offensive line. This unit has started ninety-six combined games and is the most experienced unit returning four starters from last season. With this presence up front, the RedHawks have been able to average 144 yards per game on the ground. This season they have rushed for over 200 yards in four contests. Quarterback, Aveon Smith, became the first in program history to lead the team in rushing yards, with 503, and passing yards, with 1,137 In a season. Smith has rushed for over 100 yards twice; over his last five starts, he has 91.4 per game. To go with his ground game, Smith has thrown four passes of over 20 yards in his last two games, including the 34-yard game-winner against Ball State to become bowl eligible.

Defensively the RedHawks are talented and excellent at what they do. They come in as a defense that does not allow teams to run the ball against them. This season they have only given up an average of 135 yards per game on the ground. They have held opponents under 100 yards rushing on four different occasions. Teams do not score on the ground against this defense, as they have only given up fifteen rushing touchdowns all season. On this side of the ball, one player is seemingly everywhere on the field. Middle linebacker, Ryan McWood, led the team this season in total tackles, with 121, and assisted tackles, with 71. The senior had six tackles for loss, one interception, three pass breakups, quarterback hurries, and one fumble recovery. McWood ranks second in this unit in starts with twenty-eight and has started seven consecutive games.

Who Wins?

As we have just gone over in detail, this game comes down to strength on strength. Can UAB run over the RedHawks? Can Miami tackle the Blazers before they get rolling? These questions will all be answered beginning at 10:30 central time on ESPN. After the research and study of these teams, we will go with the UAB Blazers to get the win. With the newly hired head coach in Trent Dilfer, we think this team will come in motivated to start his tenure off next season in their winning ways as the Blazers win their 50th game since 2017.

Further reading

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