2017 Bahamas Bowl
The Ohio Bobcats and the UAB Blazers are set a working vacation of sorts. For the 2017 Bahamas Bowl, the teams will face off in the fourth iteration of the bowl game.
Both teams come into the game at 8-4, having finished second in their respective MAC and C-USA divisions. UAB has won six of its last eight games to become bowl eligible for the second time in program history. Ohio is on a two game skid, having lost to Akron and Buffalo by a combined 10 points.
Ohio is currently favored at -7.5, despite a slew of injuries which including leading rusher A.J. Ouellette. Sophomore quarterback Nathan Rourke is listed as probable for tomorrows game and will more than likely start.
In their first season since 2014, the Blazers set a school record for wins with an 8-4 season. Under center, quarterback A.J. Erdely has been serviceable, with 16 touchdowns with four interceptions with a completion percentage of 61.8. However, it is the rushing attack that gives this Blazers team is fire. UAB leads the conference in team rushing yards with 2283 with 27 touchdowns. Freshman running back Spencer Brown has powered the team on the ground, rushing for 1,292 yards and 10 touchdowns on 237 carries. Against Southern Mississippi in October, Brown set a new freshman record for rushing yards in a game with 209. Erdely has also been a factor, rushing for 13 touchdowns and second on the team with 295 yards. The ground game will be key a Blazers victory as they have to keep pace with a high powered Ohio offense.
Consistently one of the higher scoring offenses in the country. Lead by Nathan Rourke, the Bobcats are averaging nearly 40 points per game this season. With Oullette more than likely out for tomorrows contest and his backup Dorian Brown still listed as questionable, Ohio will lean on their quarterback heavily to control the pace of the game on the ground.
Ohio’s rush defense will have to contain the Blazers’ ground attack to ease the burden on Rourke. The Bobcats have a top-10 rushing defense allowing 3.4 yards per carry, but have only faced a top-30 rushing offense in MAC Champion Toledo, beating them 38-10 early in November, allowing only 49 total rushing yards. This is an anomaly however as Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside recorded -29 yards rushing. With all Blazers rushers averaging over five yards per carry, Ohio will need to find a way to contain every asset the Blazers have at their offensive disposal.
Both teams are on opposite ends of the bowl game spectrum. UAB looks to complete its comeback season in its second bowl game in program history, seeking its first win. Though the better team on paper, Ohio has not fared well historically in post season play. Ohio is appearing in their ninth bowl game in 12 years, with only a 2-6 record over that span. With their young cores, a strong finish to the year has potential to set both programs up for sustainable success in the coming seasons.
Time of possession will be a deciding factor as the Blazers need to keep the ball out of the hands of Rourke. Both defenses have the capability to control the game as much as their offense, with UAB holding a slight advantage in the season rankings. A healthy UAB squad with momentum and fate on their side will be able to take advantage of a hobbled opponent. The Blazers should be able to come out on top in the 2017 Bahamas Bowl, capping off a dream season in paradise.
Blazers 35 – Bobcats 30