UAB Blazers (2-3, 2-3 ATS) at Mississippi Rebels (3-2, 2-2 ATS)
Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Oxford, M.S Saturday October 17th, 2:00PM Eastern
By Jay Horne of Predictem.com
Point Spread: UAB +21.5/Mississippi -21.5
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The Mississippi Rebels have been one of the bigger disappointment stories in the SEC this season. The Rebels highly praised offense was a big reason they reached the number 4 ranking earlier this season which was their highest ranking in 40 years. The Rebels were then upset by South Carolina and had somewhat of a sluggish performance against Vanderbilt. However the Rebels still had the chance to redeem themselves in their big battle against Alabama, but were completely dominated in yet another pitiful offensive performance from quarterback Jevan Snead and the Rebels lost 22-3. Mississippi turns their focus to another home game as they will host the Alabama-Birmingham Blazers. The Blazers have one of the worse pass defenses in America and Rebels fans hope that will help Snead shake off the horrific start.
The Blazers are coming into the contest fresh off a solid victory over Southern Mississippi 30-17 and will attempt to get their 2nd straight victory over teams from the Magnolia State. UAB will have to overcome a weak defense that ranks towards the bottom of the nation in nearly every statistical category. The Blazers defense has given up 31 points per game and over 453 yards per game of total offense. Until recently, Rebels quarterback Jevan Snead was considered the best throwing quarterback in the conference which would mean disaster for the Blazers defense. However Snead has been very ineffective against the SEC defenses and it will be interesting to see if the Blazers defense can keep him from restoring the faith back in the Mississippi faithful.
The Blazers offense is led by their solid running game. QB Joe Webb is more of a running quarterback than one that hurts you with his arm. Webb leads the team in rushing and actually ranks 2nd in Conference USA with 570 yards this season. Webb is sort of like a Josh Nesbitt of Georgia Tech for those that are not familiar with the Blazers. Webb loves to run the ball, but is not scared to throw the ball. It is just that he has not had much success with his arm completing just 53% with 5 interceptions on the season. However, Webb will likely have to make a few plays with his arm if the Blazers are going to score points. The Rebels defensive front is an impressive unit and they will keep the linebackers playing up until the Blazers offense completes some passes to wide outs Frantrell Forrest or Jeffery Anderson.
The Rebels offense is in desperate need of a spark. Their star all-purpose threat in Dexter McCluster has had just as little success as Snead. McCluster is a quick explosive player who is used in many different formations lined up at tailback, wide out, and of course quarterback when the Rebels turn to the “Wildcat” formation. However, McCluster has been ineffective as of late and was held to a season low 37 all purpose yards in the Rebels loss to Alabama last week. Of course Snead has to do a better job of getting his playmakers the ball.
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WR Shay Hodge is also having a down season as a result to the lack of offensive performance. Hodge does lead the team in all receiving statistics with 19 catches for 290 yards and 3 scores. However, Hodge was expected to have a much bigger season in his senior campaign. The trio of Rebels playmakers should be able to get back on the right track this week against a flat terrible UAB defense. Perhaps the confidence could carry over to SEC play, but is it safe to assume the offense will finally catch fire?
The Mississippi defense should be the big difference in keeping the Blazers from having any chances of an upsets. The Rebels are big 21.5 point favorites and that is mainly because the defense is expected to shut down the Blazers unbalanced rushing attack. The Rebels have held opponents to juts 13 points per game this season and they have been very impressive against the run against some really strong rushing teams. The likely scenario here is that the Rebels target in on the run and shut down Blazers quarterback Webb forcing him to throw the ball which will cause some more interceptions.
Jay’s Pick - Rebels -21.5.