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Florida vs. UAB, Preview and Game Thread: Can upstart Gators knock off mighty Blazers?

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Florida faces a tough non-conference game against a bowl-eligible team.

NCAA Football: Florida at South Carolina Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

I’m sure you care about the Florida Gators playing the UAB Blazers today.

So sure.

Here are words projecting what might happen in this game.

When Florida has the ball

Florida running game vs. UAB rush defense

As Florida’s talent on hand has dwindled — Lamical Perine’s okay, I guess, and should finish with over 500 rushing yards on the season; Mark Thompson sometimes does a good thing or two — its running game, so good for most of the season, has shut down. After six straight games of 168 yards or more on the ground, Florida hasn’t topped 100 yards in either of its last two — and has just 171 rushing yards in those games combined.

The issue here is both that the offensive line that had been one of the healthier units — it’s relative — all year is now really, really banged up, and that Perine and Thompson just aren’t as good as the injured Malik Davis or the suspended Jordan Scarlett, leaving Florida without both the bulk to create holes and playmakers to maximize those opportunities or make magic when they aren’t there.

UAB’s rush defense is fine, with the Blazers ranking No. 68 of 130 FBS teams in rush defense. Fine might be enough to be a problem for Florida.

Edge: Even

Florida passing game vs. UAB pass defense

Surprisingly, for a program that literally did not exist a year ago, UAB’s pass defense isn’t bad at all. The Blazers rank No. 38 in pass defense, and they’re No. 13 in completion percentage allowed, at just 52.2 percent.

If that sounds like a bad matchup for re-reinstalled Florida starting quarterback Feleipe Franks, it’s because it is.

Kadarius Toney and Tyrie Cleveland might be inching toward full health, and Florida does theoretically have other options in the passing game, but expecting anything consistently competent from the Gators through the air this year would seem to be foolish.

Edge: UAB

When UAB has the ball

UAB running game vs. Florida rush defense

UAB has an excellent running back in freshman Spencer Brown, who has six 100-yard games on the season and three in his last three games coming into this contest — and Brown isn’t even the Blazers’ leading touchdown scorer on the ground, because quarterback A.J. Erdely has 12 to Brown’s 10.

Florida’s rush defense has conceded 739 rushing yards over its last two games.

You know math and logic, right?

Edge: UAB

UAB passing game vs. Florida pass defense

Erdely’s closer to a dual-threat QB than a pocket passer, and has been managed accordingly — he’s thrown just 249 passes through 10 games, but has run it over 100 times. He’s also not bad at the QB thing: Two weeks ago, Erdely completed 21 of 22 passes, and he hasn’t had a game with a sub-100 QB rating all season.

Of course, the best secondary that UAB’s faced probably doesn’t have a corner as good as Florida’s third-best one, or a pass-rusher as talented as Florida’s second-best — in theory, anyway. Florida did a pretty good job against Jake Bentley a week ago, and has 11 picks in nine games — though those picks have actually come in just six games.

Slight edge: Florida

Special teams

Despite what the Ray Guy Award selectors think, Johnny Townsend may be the best punter in college football. Eddy Piñeiro is at least a good kicker, if not a very good or great one.

Everything else for Florida is a disaster, and even — finally, mercifully — replacing Brandon Powell on punt returns is unlikely to significantly improve on terrible.

Strong edge: Florida

Other factors

Florida’s wearing white helmets and playing in front of what should be an intimate gathering of Gators fans. UAB just reached bowl eligibility in its first season since resuming play as a football program and now has a chance to score one of the biggest triumphs in school history.

Gulp.

Edge: UAB


Apart from that preview, though, I just. Don’t. Care. About. This. Game.

This is Florida trying to get a win that would mean very little at the tail end of a season that means very little, and it’s the C-plot, at least, for me right now.

If you care? Great. Like you, I am hoping Florida wins.

But I cannot fathom getting upset about this game, and I encourage you not to let that fate befall you on this Saturday.

It’s still sunny and warm out in much of Florida. Feel free to enjoy that.