UAB is going to beat Georgia on Saturday.
Now that I have your attention ...
For those who are avid readers of the MDJ sports section, you know that, for the last three seasons, I was one of 61 voters across the nation who would rank the Top 25 each week for The Associated Press. In each column, before I revealed my ballot, I offered the following disclaimer: “I don’t care if Georgia or Georgia Tech win. The same can be said for Alabama, Auburn and Clemson. I may have been born in Ohio, but I am not an Ohio State fan. My money went to UAB, so when I start ranking them at No. 1, then you can call me a homer.”
That being said, let me lay down a little knowledge for you as to why my Blazers, the next college football superpower in the South, is going to take down the No. 2 team in the country Saturday.
First, no one knows how healthy Georgia is right now.
Coach Kirby Smart came out earlier in the week and said the team was suffering a “spike” in its COVID-19 cases. He clarified that statement a little bit Wednesday, saying the number was four or five players and coaches combined.
Are the players who have contracted the virus starters? We’ll have to see, but if they are key players, it could make for far less intimidating starting lineup, considering we already know offensive lineman Tate Ratledge is out for the season, and quarterback JT Daniels may miss the game because of an oblique injury.
Second: the defense.
Before you start laughing, considering the spectacular defensive performance Georgia displayed against Clemson, check the NCAA statistical rankings.
The Bulldogs currently have the No. 7 defense in the country. Guess who is two spots ahead of them? Yep, UAB.
The Blazers can play some defense and one of their best attributes is disguising coverages. The defense could make it a long day for Carson Beck if the redshirt freshman quarterback is making his first collegiate start in the place of Daniels.
Third, UAB knows how to win close games.
Let’s face it. If the Blazers win, it isn’t going to be by blowout. They are going to have to force a few turnovers and likely get Georgia to help it in some other areas to have a chance.
However, if that happens, UAB knows how to close the deal. It is 14-5 in its last 19 games decided by a touchdown for less.
And finally, Georgia is due for an emotional letdown.
Let’s face it, no matter what team is playing, when the Bulldogs play the kind of high-emotion, hard-hitting kind of game they did against Clemson, they’re going to be hard to get up for a team most people outside the state of Alabama don’t recognize.
But that’s exactly why the Blazers can shock the football world.
Plus, it would be quite a coup for a team which Yahoo Sports said its ”future sparkles as ‘one of the greatest stories’ sprouting in football-obsessed Alabama.” UAB will open its new 45,000-seat stadium — Protective Stadium, a $175 million upgrade over its former home Legion Field — which is, ironically, located directly across the street from the Southeastern Conference’s offices in Birmingham.
A victory Saturday might make some of the other conferences stand up and take notice as the conference shuffling continues.
All week, it seems things have been falling into place in UAB’s favor — Georgia’s hard-fought win over Clemson, the COVID “spike,” the injuries to key people.
And by the way, so does the point spread. The game opened with Georgia being a 27-point favorite, but as of Friday evening, it was down to 23.5.
With all this knowledge and confidence, one would think I made a large bet on UAB. Well, I can say I was the one person in the Cobb Football Friday UPickem contest to pick the Blazers, but that’s as far as I will go.
As much as I hate to say it, I don’t really think UAB is going to win the game at Sanford Stadium. I do think they will move the ball better than Clemson did, and I think there is a chance the Blazers cover the spread.
However, if you are still reading, that first line reeled you in, I thank you.
I’ve told my co-workers this week: “You know Georgia is going to win, and I know Georgia is going to win. Just make sure you aren’t wrong, because you won’t hear the end of it.”