Three Storylines That Could Determine Winner Of BYU/UAB Game

Dec 17, 2021, 2:03 PM
BYU - UAB - Tyler Allgeier - DeWayne McBride...
Running backs Tyler Allgeier and DeWayne McBride will be important pieces in determining the winner of BYU/UAB in the 2021 Independence Bowl. (Photos courtesy of Getty Images)
(Photos courtesy of Getty Images)

SHREVEPORT, La. – Saturday, December 18 will mark the first-ever BYU/UAB meeting on the gridiron. BYU comes into the game ranked No. 13 in the final College Football Playoff rankings and No. 12 in the AP Top 25.

Kalani Sitake’s squad would secure an 11-win season for the second consecutive year with a win. That hasn’t happened at BYU since 2006 and 2007. Before that, you have to go back to the National Championship year in 1984.

UAB enters the game with an 8-4 record and a third-place finish in Conference-USA.

BYU/UAB Storylines

The kickoff for Saturday’s game is 1:30 p.m. (MT) on ABC. It’s the first network television game for BYU since hosting Boise State back in October, which BYU lost.

Here are three storylines that could determine the winner of BYU/UAB.

#1 BYU’s motivation

College football bowl games always cause prognosticators to put on their psychologist cap and study the mindset of teams going into these postseason exhibitions. For BYU, their fans were not happy to land in the Independence Bowl. Even national analysts feel BYU got “shafted” landing in Shreveport.

Is BYU blocking out the noise, or are they feeling the same way? BYU head coach Kalani Sitake embraces the challenge of taking on a good UAB team. Sitake loves the bowl season, as he is always known to tune in to any bowl game he can. But the players? The jury is still out on their care factor.

BYU associate head coach Ed Lamb had questions about BYU’s energy level heading into Thursday’s practice.

The Independence Bowl has a history of underdogs pulling off upsets. Over the last 19 games, underdogs in the Independence Bowl have won nine times.

We will learn a lot about BYU in the game’s opening minutes. The Cougars have been a fast-starting team this season. But, if they stumble out of the gates, it could be another example of a highly-ranked team laying an egg in a pre-Christmas bowl game.

On the flip side, if BYU’s engaged, they have the talent to run away from a UAB squad that hasn’t faced an opponent the caliber of BYU since playing Georgia in a buy game back in September.

#2 Which defense stops the run?

UAB’s offense wants to play keep away from BYU. The Blazers are expected to run a ball-control offense with running back DeWayne McBride, who is expected to play after suffering an injury back in November against UTEP.

BYU’s defense has been known to give up long, methodical drives to their opponents this season, especially after losing linebacker Keenan Pili for the season to an injury. Look for linebackers Max Tooley and Ben Bywater to play a significant role in BYU trying to contain McBride. Tooley is coming off the best game of his BYU career in a nine-tackle performance at USC, and Bywater is leading the team in tackles with 93 this season.

BYU’s rush defense is 67th nationally, allowing 151.3 yards per game.

For BYU offensively, they are likely keeping UAB head coach Bill Clark up at night with their ground attack led by Tyler Allgeier. Allgeier, who could be playing in his final game as a BYU Cougar, is tied for the most touchdown runs this season with 20.

The playing surface at Independence Bowl Stadium is a fast one and should be a platform for skill players to make big plays.

UAB’s rush defense is 11th in the country, allowing only 104.2 yards per game. Keep an eye on UAB edge rusher Alex Wright. At 6-foot-7, 270-pounds, Wright will pose some challenges for BYU’s talented offensive line.

#3 Inclement weather

This week in Shreveport has been record-setting high temperatures hovering around the 80s. But Saturday will feature a lot of rain. From 6 a.m. till the evening, rain is in the forecast.

What impact will the rain have on the game? Look for it to play into the teams running the football more than they were already expected to run. But also, the rain could impact ball security.

BYU knows that well as they lost a game earlier this year against Boise State that saw the Cougars cough up the football on back-to-back touches deep in their own territory. Both fumbles led to Boise State scores in a game that BYU lost by nine.

No. 13 BYU vs. UAB

2021 Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl

Date: Saturday, December 18, 2021

Kick: 1:30 p.m. (MT)

Location: Independence Stadium (Shreveport, Louisiana)


Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM — Extended pregame begins at 9 a.m.)

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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Three Storylines That Could Determine Winner Of BYU/UAB Game