college football picks U-A-B at S-M-U 9-11-10

September 10, 2010

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DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 11th, 8:00 p.m. (et)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Gerald J. Ford Stadium (32,000) — Dallas, Texas. Television: None. Home Record: UAB 0-1, SMU 0-0. Away Record: UAB 0-0, SMU 0-1. Neutral Record: UAB 0-0, SMU 0-0. Conference Record: UAB 0-0, SMU 0-0. Series Record: SMU leads, 3-0.

GAME NOTES: The UAB Blazers travel to Gerald J. Ford Stadium to clash with the SMU Mustangs in a Conference-USA showdown this Saturday night.

UAB is coming off of a tough loss last Thursday night as the Blazers fell to Florida Atlantic by a score of 32-31. UAB held 14-0 and a 28-12 advantages during the battle, only to ultimately squander both leads and the game.

SMU fell 35-27 last Saturday to Texas Tech, making it a game after trailing 14-0 out of the gate. The Mustangs look to continue off of their success from last year after making the biggest turn-around in the nation in 2009, going 8-5 after a disappointing 1-11 season in 2008.

Saturday’s matchup marks the fourth time these two squads meet, while the Mustangs have taken the prior three. UAB hosted the game last season, but ultimately SMU was able to escape with a 35-33 victory.

UAB’s offense was one of the best in the nation last season when it came to the running game, averaging almost 230 yards on the ground each contest, scoring 17 touchdowns. Joe Webb, the Blazers’ quarterback in 2009, was the team’s leading rusher. He has since graduated and opened the door for QB David Isabelle, who approaches the game in a similar manner. In UAB’s opener against Florida Atlantic, Isabelle threw for a mere 79 yards, including one touchdown on 9-of-19 passing. However, he also ran for an incredible 214 yards on 22 carries, good for three touchdowns. Isabelle’s longest run was a 50-yard gain in the final minute of play, setting up a field goal attempt as the Blazers looked to steal the victory. The 28-yard attempt was blocked as UAB ultimately fell, 32-31.

The Blazers must be sound defensively if they have any interest in contending in Conference-USA action this season. In the 2009 campaign, UAB’s defense was horrendous, giving up over 455 yards per contest, ranking them among the worst in the country. Most of the problem lies when the opponent’s quarterback goes to the air, as the Blazers would allow 311 passing yards per game, including 27 touchdowns last season. Against Florida Atlantic however, UAB’s defense had improved, but not quite enough. Florida Atlantic garnered 347 total yards and 254 through the air, scoring three passing touchdowns. So obviously there is a still a significant problem in the Blazers’ secondary.

The Mustangs are led by head coach June Jones who institutes a run-and-shoot style of offense. Last season, this proved successful, especially for now- sophomore quarterback Kyle Padron. Padron threw for almost 2000 yards and 10 touchdowns over seven games played in 2009, completing 67.2 percent of his passes. Padron threw for 218 yards on 21-of-38 passing, including two touchdowns and three interceptions, in this past Saturday’s defeat by Texas Tech. Both touchdowns went the way of wide receiver Cole Beasley, who tied a career high. With former favorite target Emmanuel Sanders now in the NFL, Padron will most likely look to Beasley and Aldrick Robinson, who caught 47 balls for 800 yards and five touchdowns last season.

SMU’s defense was consistent in 2009, obviously good enough to turn the Mustangs record around to 8-5. Last season, SMU ran with a 3-4 style defense, a change from the prior season. In sticking with that approach, the Mustangs look to bring pressure on the opponent’s quarterback from their linebackers as well as the defensive line. This bodes well for players like Taylor Thompson (40 tackles, 5.5 sacks in 2009) and Marquis Frazier (45 tackles, 4.0 sacks). This season, it looks as if the secondary may hold the key to the defense’s success. On Saturday, Texas Tech ran the ball 31 times for only 102 yards (2.3 yards per rush). However, SMU allowed 359 yards via the airways and four touchdowns, which ultimately put the Mustangs in a deficit they could not come back from.

SMU showed great resilience against Texas Tech after being down early. Look for that momentum to carry over for the Mustangs as they topple the Blazers in Dallas on Saturday.

FREE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICKSSMU 35, UAB 21

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