BYU vs. UAB Prediction, Pick Against the Spread, and Latest Odds

BYU vs. UAB prediction and pick for this Saturday's Independence Bowl matchup between the two teams. Who should you be backing? Find out here
Alex Kirshner |
Mon, December 13, 8:52 AM EST | 4 min read
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BYU vs. UAB Prediction, Pick Against the Spread, and Latest Odds

BYU Cougars vs. UAB Blazers - Independence Bowl

Spread: BYU -7

Total: 54.5

Game time: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, Shreveport, La.

Where to watch: ABC

BYU vs. UAB odds

BYU vs. UAB Prediction

The college football bowl season gets off the blocks this weekend, starting a 43-game sprint over the next three weeks to wrap up the year. The most enticing matchup of this opening stretch comes to us via the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, where BYU and UAB meet on Saturday. The Cougars are closing up their second year in a row of elite offense, despite losing quarterback Zach Wilson and coordinator Jeff Grimes following a near-unbeaten 2020. Predictions that BYU would be one of 2021’s biggest regressors didn’t pan out, and they’ll carry a 10-2 record into this game. UAB is 8-4 and has followed the same broad formula it’s used for a while under Bill Clark: a decent offense, a really good defense, and a lot of wins.

The power-on-power matchup will come when BYU has the ball. The Cougars have a well-rounded offense and don’t offer a whole lot to exploit: Jarren Hall has been one of the most efficient passers in the country and hasn’t sacrificed big-play ability to keep himself on schedule. The running game is plodding but powerful, as Tyler Allgeier and Hall operate behind a good line. And BYU has four or five good receivers, plus a couple of tight ends whom Hall might involve in the aerial game. Ten Cougars have reached double-digit targets for the year, and as a group, they’ve found success against both zone- and man-based coverages.

Fortunately, UAB’s defense has the skill and structure to answer a lot of that, though. The Blazer rush defense has been elite, letting up three yards per carry and forcing negative plays on more than one in four opponent attempts. Linebacker Alex Wright is a future NFL player and (as long as he plays in this game) should be critical both in bothering Hall and limiting Allgeier. The only negative to the UAB defense this year has been an annoying susceptibility to explosive pass plays –– something UTSA famously exploited last month in driving the length of the field with just over a minute left to hand UAB a come-from-ahead loss. BYU has plenty of wideouts capable of getting open deep downfield, so it’s worth worrying at least a little bit about whether the Blazers can keep a lid on things for an entire game. A few big plays are likely en route.

The conflict between UAB’s offense and BYU’s defense is less exciting, but it marginally favors UAB. Quarterback Dylan Hopkins, who won the job from incumbent Tyler Johnston III (who’s now in the transfer portal) has been sturdy all year and takes pretty good care of the ball despite taking quite a few sacks. Running back DeWayne McBride averages almost 7 yards per carry, and tight end Gerrit Prince is a surprisingly serious vertical threat for a tight end. BYU’s pass defense has been its most glaring weakness by a mile, and the Cougars have struggled guarding tight ends in particular. (They gave up 52 yards or more to the position in four of their seven games against Power 5 teams, which UAB isn’t.) If the Blazers have a good plan to feature Prince, he might squeeze out some valuable receptions in this game.

If you think everything here makes the Independence Bowl sound like a tossup or a slight lean to BYU on the strength of its offense, I’d have a hard time disagreeing. I don’t think it makes sense that the Cougars are laying an entire touchdown, unless the market knows something I don’t about bowl opt-outs or injuries on the UAB side –– something that I should admit is always a possibility this time of year. It might happen! But absent a surprising pregame bombshell, I’ll free pretty good about getting a touchdown going into this game. It’s also worth noting that UAB (and UAB’s fans) have a significant travel advantage for this game in Louisiana. BYU is a national brand and travels well, but I might give the Blazers a point or so for a pseudo-home-field advantage. I feel good about the value on their side of the ledger.

BYU vs. UAB Pick

Alex Kirshner
@Alex_Kirshner

Alex Kirshner covers college football for the Moon Crew newsletter. He is a co-author of The Sinful Seven: Sci-Fi Western Legends of the NCAA, and he lives in Washington, D.C.

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