UAB (1-7) at Southern Miss (0-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Nov. 3, 7:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Roberts Stadium (36,000) -- Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Television: CSS. Home Record: UAB 1-3, USM 0-4. Away Record: UAB 0-4, USM 0-4. Neutral Record: UAB 0-0, USM 0-0. Conference Record: UAB 0-4, USM 0-4. Series Record: Southern Miss leads, 9-3.
GAME NOTES: With both sides still searching for their first Conference USA victory, the UAB Blazers and Southern Miss Golden Eagles are set to square off at Roberts Stadium.
UAB lost its third game in a row and fell to 1-7 overall as it was defeated, 55-45, by Tulane in a shootout in New Orleans. Garrick McGee's debut season as the program's head coach has not gone too smoothly. Other than a 52-3 win over Southeastern Louisiana of the FCS, UAB has lost all of its games with five of the seven setbacks being decided by 10 points or more. The Blazers have been outscored by an average of 8.1 ppg this season.
Southern Miss was expected to have a rebuilding year after winning the C-USA last season, but its 0-8 start is somewhat shocking. The Golden Eagles have been outscored, 103-41, over the past two weeks as they closed out October with blowout losses to Marshall and Rice. Ellis Johnson is still seeking his first victory as the head coach of USM, which is off to its worst start since 1976. Johnson is off to the worst start for a first year head coach at the school since 1931.
UAB is rising to the top of the C-USA leaderboard offensively. The Blazers now rank fourth in total offense in the conference with an improved average of 422.0 yards. They also rank sixth in scoring offense (30.1 ppg). UAB was able to amass a season-high 622 yards and 45 points at Tulane their last time out. The offense is starting to gel despite weakness on the offensive line. UAB is allowing 3.3 sacks per contest, which is the worst in the C-USA and ranks 112th out of 120 FBS programs.
Freshman Austin Brown seems to be the quarterback of the future in Birmingham. The rookie completed 26-of-52 attempts for a career-high 409 yards with three TDs and the same number of interceptions against the Green Wave last week. Brown has thrown 11 touchdowns to six interceptions, while completing 57.8 percent of his passes for 1,858 yards.
Brown has a pair of reliable targets in Nick Adams and Jackie Williams. Adams has been on fire ever since Brown took over the starting QB duties and has 32 catches for 500 yards and one score on the season. Williams has made a reception in all 31 games he has played for UAB. Last week, the junior wideout tied his season-high with six receptions which he turned into 143 yards and his first TD grab of 2012. Williams has reeled in 35 passes for a team-leading total of 617 yards.
Darrin Reaves has been the squad's best option in terms of running the ball. Although he has only averaged 50.7 yards per game heading into last week, he surprised many by rushing the ball 21 times for a career-best 166 yards and three TDs. His 521 yards and nine touchdowns are more than twice any other ball carrier.
The UAB defense has been lit up for 461.1 yards per game this season which ranks ninth in the defensively weak C-USA and 106th in the FBS. UAB has also had trouble with keeping their opposition from putting points on the board, allowing 38.1 points per game. The Blazers' lack of defense has been apparent in their previous two games as they surrendered a combined total of 1,219 yards in losses to East Carolina and Tulane.
UAB does have most of the most active defenders in the nation on its roster in Marvin Burdette, who has racked up an FBS leading 104 total tackles this season. Burdette also has a team-high 8.5 tackles for loss and is tied for the team-lead with two sacks. In the secondary, Lamarcus Farmer has been effective with seven pass breakup and Lamar Johnson has two interceptions.
The reason for the Golden Eagles lack of success so far is no mystery. Southern Miss is just ninth in scoring offense (19.3 ppg) and 10th in total offense (322.6 ypg) after finishing second in the conference in both categories last season. Southern Miss has been especially weak through the air, averaging a only 151.6 yards per game, which is the second worst in the C-USA.
The quarterback situation has been a shifting one for Southern Miss this season with the lack of production through the air. USM started Arsenio Favor against Rice to become the only team in the FBS to start four different QBs this season. Favor's first start was forgettable as he was benched in the third quarter after throwing two interceptions on 10-of-22 passing. Cole Weeks stepped in and went 4-f-9 for 76 yards with an interception.
With inconsistency at quarterback, Southern Miss' receivers have been unable to create any chemistry. Tracey Lampley (15 receptions, 258 yards) is the team's most productive wideout, despite his modest numbers.
Desmond Johnson has been the team's featured back, rushing for 460 yards on 82 carries to lead the conference's fifth best rushing offense. In recent weeks though, Johnson has been slowed, finishing with just 85 yards combined over the last three outings.
The Golden Eagles are not much better on the other side of the ball with allowed averages of 39.6 points and 431.5 yards per contest, which rank sixth and 11th in the C-USA, respectively. USM set a season-high with three takeaways, all fumble recoveries, versus the Owls last week.
Jamie Collins has been one of the lone bright spots on the team as he has amassed 64 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and six sacks. Collins is fourth in the conference in tackles for loss.
Neither side has done much to indicate they hold the upper hand over the other heading into this battle. Both teams have been inconsistent and uninspiring. UAB's passing attack will get it some points and yards, but the Blazers need to protect the ball to come out on top.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Southern Miss 38, UAB 35
10/31 10:46:23 ET