ESPN broadcasts their first game on a Thursday night this college football season with the UAB Blazers traveling to Mobile to play the South Alabama Jaguars for this in-state rivalry in the “Battle for the Belt.” Both these teams had the benefit of a bye week to rebound from a loss. These two teams also will be starting different quarterbacks from the one who began their seasons atop their depth charts.
UAB has become a regular fixture for Thursday night football as they opened the season with a 45-35 victory over Central Arkansas on September 3rd before losing the next Thursday at Miami (FL) by a 31-14 score as a 15.5-point underdog. The Blazers kept that game competitive through the first half with the Hurricanes only up 14-7 at halftime before the superior athletes of Miami pulled away.
Junior quarterback Tyler Johnston III injured his the shoulder of his non-throwing arm in that game after he completed 15 of 23 passes for 150 yards. He is out indefinitely, which means the UAB offense is in the hands of Bryson Lucero. The redshirt freshman completed only 4 of 12 passes for 55 yards against the tough Hurricanes defense in relief. He is completing only 52.4% of his passes. However, there are reasons for optimism with Pro Football Focus grading out his performances so far this season at 71.3 with Johnston receiving a lower grade of 67.8.
The extra week to prepare should help Lucero for this game. Head coach Bill Clark has done a great job keeping this program alive after it went inactive in 2015 and 2016. The Blazers have a 29-14 record since their return to competition with three straight bowl appearances. UAB had the benefit of six spring practices with a core of players that features 21 juniors and seniors.
South Alabama opened their season on the opening Thursday of the college football season with a 32-21 upset victory at Southern Mississippi as an 11.5-point underdog. The Jaguars then lost two Saturdays ago on September 12th by a 27-24 score at home to Tulane where they were also 11.5-point underdogs. That result was a disappointment for head coach Steve Campbell with South Alabama blowing a 24-6 lead in the second half. Campbell’s incumbent starting quarterback, sophomore Desmond Trotter, has been slowed with a shoulder injury of his own. Junior Chance Loveritch will get the start tonight after he started the game against the Green Wave although he is likely to split time once again with Trotter. The former junior college All-American completed 18 of 29 passes for 247 yards with two touchdown passes and no interceptions against Tulane. His 9.7 yards per pass attempt average is 13th best in the nation. Trotter has completed 20 of 35 passes this season with two touchdown passes but two interceptions.
South Alabama hosts the second game in their new Hancock Whitney Stadium. This on-campus facility will allow a limited capacity. The Jaguars will look to earn their first victory in their new digs after posting a 43-25 record at home at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. South Alabama was just 2-10 last season, but Campbell has fifteen starters returning from that team in his third year with the program. BetAnySports
has UAB as a 6.5-point favorite with the total set at 46.5. Kickoff is set for 7:30 PM ET.