Bowl games are better in the Bahamas, and if there’s one thing the Ohio Bobcats and UAB Blazers will be thankful for over the holiday season, it’s being selected to play in perhaps the most interesting bowl locale in the college football landscape.
Even beside the exotic backdrop, the 2017 rendition of the Bahamas Bowl (which, sadly, is no longer sponsored by Popeyes) looks to be a fantastic matchup between two teams with similar ambitions and styles of play.
Ohio will be the first non-directional Michigan school to play in Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium as the MAC representative after an 8-4 (5-3 MAC) season and will look to put a positive end on a disappointing season, while UAB comes in to Nassau at 8-4 (6-2 CUSA) after a fairytale first season back from the graveyard of college football.
We talked to Dave West, editor-in-chief of UAB-centric blog The Daily Dragon to preview the upcoming matchup:
What a season for UAB. To be bowl eligible in the first year back from a two-year shutdown is an incredible feat. How are fans feeling about the upcoming bowl game?
To be honest I'm not sure if it's sunken in yet even though we are days away from the game. A great deal of UAB supporters, myself included, have never experienced consistent winning much less a bowl game. I think once our boys show up on the big screen Friday fans will settle in to the fact that this is the new norm for UAB and this is what we should expect every year. Bill Clark has instilled a confidence in his players and supporters that's hard to explain if you're not in the middle of it all.
Back to the football! UAB employs a run-based offense which uses a steady stable of running backs to wear down teams. Which players should Ohio fans be looking out for?
Our run game all starts with Spencer Brown who is about 100 yards away from breaking the Conference USA freshman rushing record. The only team that really stood a chance in slowing him down this season was Florida. He has had over 800 yards after first contact and rarely gets stopped behind the line of scrimmage. His power attack and Erdely's threat to pull it and take it himself in the run option makes for a nightmare situation for coordinators to prep for. They are a lot like Ohio actually!
The defense has been fairly tenacious for the Blazers as well, especially on the corners. How will UAB look to shut down the Bobcats offense?
I've watched UAB shut down some solid backs this season and it's been impressive. Between the tackles we are big and strong with Anthony Rush and Teko Powell who could start for many power 5 programs. On the edge it's our senior linebackers Shaq Jones and Tevin Crews who really bottle up rushers with their ability to pursue and get tackles for loss. It's tough sledding trying to rush against UAB. Ohio is going to have a difficult time especially if the injuries they've suffered in the backfield are still lingering.
As a UAB fan, who on the Bobcats roster poses the biggest threat to you?
It's has to be Nathan Rourke who in my opinion is the best quarterback UAB will have seen this season. UAB had some issues with mobile quarterbacks this season specifically at Charlotte. If we can contain the edge I like our chances and we should be able to do that with the linebackers I mentioned who are now rested. UAB will look to make Ohio one dimensional and I think our secondary will hold up well and force the run game.
Two great coaches will be on the sidelines, with former Nebraska head coach Frank Solich and Coach of the Year candidate Bill Clark calling the shots. What do you expect to see from both coaches?
It's going to be a chess match I think. Both of these coaches are going to have enough time to prepare and possibly add in some new wrinkles. I personally think that these two teams are so evenly matched that it may in fact come down to coaching decisions that decide this outcome whether it be going for it on fourth or possibly a trick play or two.
Finally, how do you see the game going down?
I see this game being some where in the 20's and decided in the final minutes. Both teams will likely lean on the run game and the team that makes the last big mistake is going to lose. These teams are going to be prepared and hungry. I'll give UAB the edge strictly on the fact that the group of seniors on this team want to leave their legacy and will refuse to lose.
Many thanks to Dave and the rest of the Daily Dragon crew, who can be followed on Twitter @The_DailyDragon. Dave himself can be followed on Twitter @GodSaveTheHam.