Independence Bowl: UAB Vs. BYU
It’s been an impressive season for BYU between announcing they will be joining the Big 12, being ranked as high as 10th in the AP Poll, winning all five of their matchups against Pac 12 teams, and locking up head coach Kalani Sitake on an “unprecedented” long-term contract despite interest from major programs such as Oregon. UAB hasn’t been as impressive, but they have handled themselves well on their way to a 6-2 conference record in a tough C-USA and an 8-4 record overall. BYU has an all-time bowl record of just 16-21-1, but they’ve won three of their last four bowl games. UAB, meanwhile, has an all-time bowl record of just 1-3, with three of those four appearances coming in the past five years after Bill Clark became the head coach.
UAB Vs. BYU Betting Odds
UAB Blazers Betting Odds
After holding a 24-17 halftime lead over UTSA, UAB dropped the game that would have given them the C-USA West title. The Blazers will be remiss on that missed opportunity as UTSA will now be facing San Diego State in the Miami Beach Bowl. Still, UAB won three of its last four games of the season and has a tremendous chance to prove itself here as it continues to evolve as a football program. UAB has an excellent defense that ranks 27th in the country in ESPN’s SP+ metric and allowed the fewest points per game in C-USA this season.
Alex Wright leads the team with six sacks, 41 tackles, and 7.5 tackles for loss, and he was named the C-USA Defensive Player of the Year by Pro Football Focus. With Wright leading the way, UAB has allowed the 15th-fewest yards per game and is especially dominant against the run, allowing only Liberty and Georgia to run for over 150 yards against them this season. UAB’s ability to slow down a dynamic BYU rushing offense will be essential for being competitive in this game.
Offensively, UAB has 30+ points in seven games this season, but it could be without its best player in DeWayne McBride, who suffered an ankle injury in the season finale against UTEP. McBride has led the team with 1,185 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns this season, and if he’s unable to play, the offense would be severely limited. Quarterback Dylan Hopkins has had a decent season with 2,085 passing yards and 15 touchdowns to 6 interceptions, but he likely can’t do enough without McBride to score enough points in this game.
UAB Vs. BYU Betting Picks Video
BYU Cougars Betting Odds
BYU was the highest-ranked team in the final College Football Playoff poll to be left out of a New Years’ Six game, despite beating eventual conference champions Utah, Utah State, and narrowly losing to Baylor. There’s no question they will feel snubbed by that decision, and I was surprised to see them playing in this game. Head coach Kalani Sitake has led this team to 10+ wins in two straight seasons now, and they are clearly on the rise as a program and preparing for a higher level of competition in the Big 12. If they get to ten wins as a Power Five team next year, it’s hard to imagine them being stuck in the Independence Bowl again.
BYU’s offense has remained electric despite losing quarterback Zach Wilson, who the New York Jets selected with a first-round pick. They have scored 33.5 points per game, 29th-most in the nation, and have converted almost 47% of their third-down opportunities this year. I’ve been impressed with Jaren Hall, the former walk-on who replaced Wilson this season, as he’s thrown for 20 touchdowns and is getting some NFL buzz. However, Tyler Allgeier has been the star of the offense, with 1,414 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns. Hall and Allgeier came up huge in the team’s biggest games to lead them to a 6-1 record against Power Five teams.
BYU’s defense hasn’t been nearly as good as its offense, and they gave up 49 points to Virginia just a few weeks ago. The Cougars are missing six starters on defense from the first game of the season as injuries have struck this group, but the depth has stepped up in some key games. Malik Moore and Jakob Robinson each have three interceptions, and, at the very least, the defense has been opportunistic. Still, it’s certainly what held BYU back from having an even better season than this.
UAB Vs. BYU Picks & Prediction
- Cougars are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 bowl games
- Blazers are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games against a team with a winning record
- Over is 4-1 in the Blazers’ last 5 games overall
- Under is 7-0 in the Cougars’ last 7 games against C-USA teams
Handicapping human emotion is the most challenging part of making predictions for college football bowl games. Still, I’m expecting BYU to bring a lot of heart into this game and play with a chip on their collective shoulder after being snubbed from an NY6 game. Sitake isn’t the type of coach who would let his players coast through to the end of the season, and BYU would love to make another national statement before they jump into the Big 12 next season. The potential absence, or at least limitations, for UAB’s star running back, DeWayne McBride, presents the Blazers’ offense with a ton of problems, even though the BYU defense is somewhat vulnerable. Defensively, UAB ranks among the better teams in the nation, but Jaren Hall and Tyler Allgeier will present it with one of its toughest challenges of the season. I like the over to hit here with BYU’s offense leading the charge and UAB’s offense doing its best to stay in the game, and I like the Cougars to end their season with one more big statement.
My Pick: BYU wins 34-24, BYU covers, over 54.5 points