Good morning Faithful! Today we have a bowl game doubleheader. We start off in the Caribbean at the Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl! Personally, if my team wasn’t heading to the College Football Playoff or a New Year’s 6 Bowl, the Bahamas Bowl seems like a great consolation prize! Nothing like playing in the Bahamas as the calendar flips to Winter! Anyhow, onto the game featuring the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) Blazers of Conference USA against the Ohio Bobcats of the MAC Conference.
Why YOU Should Watch
Offense! If you like high scoring, shootouts this is the game for you. Ohio’s run game is not as appreciated as it should be, and of course, part of this is due to the lack of national attention for the program. If you love comeback stories, then #Return aka UAB is a great reason to watch. From a complete shutdown to a rebirth and a second bowl appearance, UAB is one of the best stories of the College Football season! Hats off to them!
How They Got Here
After surpassing expectations UAB will be appearing in just their second bowl game in program history. This is a special moment for a program who had ceased football operations after 2014, only to storm back this past year, finishing 8-4. Head Coach Bill Clark, who was recently named CBS National Coach of the Year remained with the program throughout the entire shutdown. Props to Coach Clark for his commitment and will to rise this program from the ashes. The Bobcats of Ohio finished 8-4 as well, and had another productive season under head coach Frank Solich who has been leading the program for the past 13 seasons.
UAB only makes it’s second bowl appearance in program history, while Ohio will be making it’s 8th bowl appearance in 9 seasons.
UAB is definitely the feel-good story of the college football season, and so they will most likely have many fans tuning into this game. However, thanks to a well-balanced, option run game that is executed and utilized, Ohio should win this game with ease and comfort. However, UAB is having a magical season, and perhaps they have a little more magic for one last BIG game of the season. Don’t be surprised if they pull the upset.
The Pick: Ohio
Top 5 Players To Watch
Darious Williams - CB - UBA - 5’10” - 180 lbs.
Quentin Poling - LB - Ohio - 6’0” - 235 lbs.
Collin Lisa - WR - UAB - 5’10” - 166 lbs.
Tevin Crews - LB - UAB - 6’2” - 212 lbs.
A.J. Ouellette - RB - Ohio - 5’9” - 205 lbs.
Darious Williams - CB - UAB - No. 1
One of the bright spots and leaders of the Blazers defense. The senior recored 49 total tackles, 37 solo tackles, five interceptions, and a touchdown. Williams is a ballhawk who consistently cut the receiver’s off their routes. Plays his best in man to man coverage, and will match the physical presence of his opponent. Will stay toe-to-toe with his opponent on the deepest routes, and finishes his tackles, wrapping his arms quickly around his opponent. As a 49ers fan, Williams is the most important person to watch on the field at a position that needs to be addressed.
Quentin Poling - LB - Ohio - No. 32
It was a high volume, highly productive year for the senior, two-time All-Mac Conference player. Poling recorded 102 tackles, 5.5 sacks, seven tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles, five quarterback hurries, and four passes broken up. The captain, and hard-hitting linebacker possesses leadership that evaluators seek at the next level. The defense revolves around him, and his presence raises the level of his teammates and their ability. A day three prospect to keep an eye on in this game.
Idaho Potato Bowl
At the beginning of the season the 49ers began with Brian Hoyer at quarterback and the team seemed all but destined to select a passer with their first round pick. Josh Allen, quarterback of Wyoming, was one of the most hyped prospects entering the 2017 season. Since then, the 49ers traded for Jimmy Garoppolo and Allen’s draft stock has lost some of it’s lust. Still though, Allen comes into this game as the biggest name and prospect participating. With that said, let’s learn a bit more about these teams and some prospects to watch. This bowl will feature the Wyoming Cowboys of the Mountain West Conference taking on the Central Michigan Chippewas of the MAC Conference.
How They Got Here
Wyoming enters this game at 7-5 after a bit of an underwhelming season. The Cowboys did not meet the expectations set at the beginning of the season. Part of this was due to Allen not playing at a high level against higher ranked opponents. In addition, Allen suffered a sprained AC joint in his throwing shoulder. Part of this was due to the offense as a whole that lost some talent from last year’s squad. Central Michigan enters this game at 8-4 after finishing 2nd in the MAC East division.
It was believed that Josh Allen was going to begin preparations for the NFL Draft. However, he will be playing, even with an injury to his shoulder. My guess is that he will look to rebuild his draft stock as much as he can. I still believe he can be a first round talent.
This should be a very close game. It’s almost a coin flip. The difference though is Allen, and if he plays to his abilities, then the Cowboys should be able to pull out a victory and collect the hardware. Expect Allen to play well in his final collegiate game.
The Pick: Wyoming
Wyoming (7-5) Vs Central Michigan (8-4)
Date: Friday, Dec. 22
Time: 1:00 p.m. PT
Location: Albertsons Stadium -- Boise, Idaho
Odds: Wyoming -3.5, 45
Top 5 Players To Watch
Josh Allen - QB - Wyoming - 6’5” - 235 lbs. (1st-2nd)
Tyler Conklin - TE - Central Michigan - 6’4” - 240 lbs.
Joe Ostam - DE - Central Michigan - 6’3” - 259 lbs.
Mark Chapman - WR - Central Michigan - 6’0” - 180 lbs.
Carl Granderson - EDGE - Wyoming - 6’5” - 255 lbs.
Carl Granderson - EDGE - 6’5” - No. 91
Since quarterback is not on the priority list for the 49ers, I will discuss Granderson instead…A pass rusher. The 49ers can use help in this department. This season Granderson had 73 tackles, 7.5 sacks, two interceptions, and two forced fumbles. Granderson has a fantastic spring and quick first step off the line. He consistently made his presence in the opponent’s backfield. Durability is something to monitor as he suffered a knee injury in 2016, though seems to have come back healthy from that. We will see if he declares for the draft, but Granderson is definitely someone to watch this afternoon.
Tyler Conklin - TE - Central Michigan - No. 83
This season Tyler Conklin had 406 yards, 28 receptions, and 5 touchdowns. For his career he had 1,061 yards, 76 receptions, and 11 touchdowns. Conklin has dual-threat ability as both a blocker and a pass catcher. I like his abilities more as a pass catcher than a blocker, and he needs more improvement in this department. The 49ers will need to evaluate and determine what direction they want to go at the tight end position. Worse case, I believe the team needs to add depth to the position. Conklin is my favorite prospect on Central Michigan.
Lastly, I want to take this opportunity to wish The Faithful a very happy and healthy holiday season, and joyous New Year!