UAB (5-6) at Southern Miss (3-8) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: M. M. Roberts Stadium (36,000) -- Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Television: American Sports Network. Home Record: UAB 3-3, Southern Miss 2-3. Away Record: UAB 2-3, Southern Miss 1-5. Neutral Record: UAB 0-0, Southern Miss 0-0. Conference Record: UAB 3-4, Southern Miss 1-6. Series Record: Southern Miss leads, 10-4.
GAME NOTES: With the regular season clock about to wind down, the UAB Blazers and the Southern Miss Golden Eagles will square off to close out their seasons at M. M. Roberts Stadium in a Conference USA tilt.
UAB absolutely has to win this game to be bowl eligible, and whether the team is actually awarded a bowl is still yet to be seen. At 5-6, the Blazers can reach .500 in coach Bill Clark's first year at the helm. The team dropped the closest contest Marshall has experienced all season, losing 23-18 to the Thundering Herd last weekend.
Southern Miss has had a very sub-par season, but injuries have plagued the Golden Eagles at key positions. The team is coming off a bye week, but prior to that the Golden Eagles lost to UTSA, 12-10, back on Nov. 13.
Southern Miss holds the 10-4 all-time series advantage over UAB heading into this 15th matchup between the programs. The teams met last season late in November, which saw the Golden Eagles come away with a 62-27 victory.
Offense hasn't been an issue at all for the Blazers this season, who are averaging 32.1 ppg through 11 games played. The team is led by a very strong ground game headed by Jordan Howard, who has gained 1,325 yards with 12 touchdowns on 271 carries. Howard is averaging 120.5 ypg for an offense that is rushing for just south of 200 yards per outing.
Cody Clements has been a somewhat effective passer for the Blazers, though the junior is averaging just 205.1 passing ypg. He's thrown for 2,051 yards and 11 touchdowns against eight interceptions, but his 66.5 completion percentage is at least strong.
With a lack of a strong passing game, the UAB receivers have largely been underutilized this season. Kennard Backman leads the team with 36 receptions, adding in 369 yards and three touchdowns in 11 contests. JJ Nelson has brought in a team-best 635 yards through the air, also registering three receiving scores.
While the UAB offense hasn't been much of an issue, the team's defense has been lacking from time to time, allowing opponents to score an average of 30.5 ppg through 11 games. Even in the team's latest win against Florida Atlantic back at the start of this month, the Owls were able to rack up 28 points on the Blazers, who haven't held an opponents to under 23 points since mid October.
Jake Ganus leads the Blazers this season with 64 tackles, adding in a team- best 13.5 tackles for loss with five sacks and a fumble recovery. Lineman Diaheem Watkins has performed well also, registering 10 tackles for loss and a team- high eight sacks with five quarterback hurries. With 70 total tackles for loss and 27 sacks as a team, the Blazers will be looking to get after an Eagles team that has surrendered 29 sacks to opponents this season.
It's been a very bleak season for Southern Miss, which has lost four games in a row. The team is averaging just 18.5 ppg through 11 contests, and is coming up shy of 100 ypg on the ground. Ito Smith has a team-best 494 rushing yards, but George Payne has scored a team-high six touchdowns. As a whole, Southern Miss has only scored eight times on the ground this year.
Regular quarterback Nick Mullens hasn't been as effective as the team had hoped he would be. Mullens has passed for 2,207 yards with 11 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, and has only started in nine games due to injury. Between Mullens and backup Cole Weeks, the two have combined for 13 touchdowns and 14 interceptions this season.
That has seriously limited the receiving threats for the Golden Eagles. Casey Martin has a team-high 52 catches, but has only turned them into 515 yards and two scores, while Michael Thomas tops the team with 580 receiving yards and five scoring catches. Both players average over 50 ypg through the air.
It certainly doesn't help the offense's job when the defense struggles so bad. The Golden Eagles are surrendering 34.5 ppg to opponents, along with 442.7 offensive ypg. Back in the beginning of November, the Golden Eagles gave up 63 points to Marshall at home. Last week, UAB only allowed one of the nation's best offenses to score 28. That could say something as these two teams get set to collide.
It's been a bumpy season for most members of the Southern Miss defense, although Dasman McCullum has recorded 11 tackles for loss with 4.5 sacks - fairly respectable numbers. He also has four forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and an interception in 11 games played. Jacorius Cotton leads the team with 68 tackles, and Rakeem Nunez-Roches has team highs in tackles for loss (13.5) and quarterback hurries (seven).
There's at least some motivation for UAB heading into this game, because a win could potentially mean a bowl game appearance. But for Southern Miss, there's simply nothing left as the team already tries to figure out how to improve next season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UAB 29, Southern Miss 16Game Date and Time
Saturday, November 29, 3:30 p.m. (ET)