The first Power 5 team to take the field will be Miami on Thursday night. In the second year under head coach Manny Diaz, the Hurricanes will look to improve on a 6-7 season. It begins against UAB.
The Blazers are two years removed from a Conference USA championship and reached the title game last season. UAB opened the year with a 45-35 win over Central Arkansas.
Who: UAB Blazers (1-0) at Miami Hurricanes (0-0)
When: Thursday, Sept. 10 at 8 p.m. ET (ACC Network)
Where: Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL
Odds: Miami -14.0; O/U 54.5; ESPN FPI: Miami 72.3%
There is a lot of hype around Miami heading into the 2020 season. With highly-regarded transfer quarterback D’Eriq King from Houston taking over in Coral Gables, expect the Miami offense to take a step forward. The biggest question mark is how much of a step forward the Miami offense will take.
In 2019, Miami used three different quarterbacks, never really finding its guy in the process. With new offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee coming in with his high-tempo system, expect Miami’s offensive to put up points in 2020. Defensively, Miami is as stout as ever — even after 2019 ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year Gregory Rousseau opted out. Adding Temple grad transfer Quincy Roche at the defensive end position will allow Diaz and staff to be aggressive in 2020.
UAB has the benefit of having already kicked off its 2020 season. The Blazers were the first FBS team to take the field in 2020. They opened with a win over Central Arkansas last Thursday night.
The score does not tell the story of how UAB played in this game. UAB’s offensive moved the football well all game long. Take away some big turnovers that set up 14 points for Central Arkansas and two late touchdown drives for the Bears and UAB was in full control.
Quarterback Tyler Johnston III looked good in the season opener, throwing for 143 yards and two scores while completing 17 of his 25 passes. The UAB offense will need to continue to have balance on offense. Running back Spencer Brown had a good game on the ground, rushing for 127 yards on 24 attempts with a touchdown.
Expect UAB’s defense, which is near the top of Conference USA to play well against Miami. The Blazers will need to shore up their tackling from Week 1. It is in UAB’s best interest to keep this game to a low-scoring affair.
Match-Up to Watch: UAB’s pass rush vs. Miami’s offensive line
UAB’s defense was third in the nation in third-down stops and 11th in sacks in 2019. UAB had two sacks and held Central Arkansas to 6 of 13 on third down in its season opener. Expect UAB to improve those numbers with starters playing more.
If Miami wants to end this horrific streak of losing to C-USA teams, it must protect King and give him time to make plays with his legs. The 27 sacks given up by this Miami offensive line a season ago is unacceptable and if it can’t protect King against UAB, the Blazers are capable of leaving Hard Rock Stadium with a victory.
Micah: Miami 28, UAB 20
I expect Miami to look sluggish with this being its first game. UAB is looking forward to the spotlight Thursday night and I expect it to play well. I think the difference in this game will be turnovers. I trust the turnover chain 4.0 will be out in force, seeing that UAB let Central Arkansas hang around due to costly turnovers. Expect a restless Miami crowd and a lot of hot takes regarding Miami afterward.
Shayler: Miami 38, UAB 17
UAB started off very slow last week and only led by seven at halftime. Miami will start out fast and its speed will be too much for the Blazers even though Miami is 0-2 in the last two match-ups against C-USA opponents.
Kevin Fielder: Miami 41, UAB 10
Miami isn’t back yet, but it should have no problem handling UAB at home. The new offense will come out firing, while the defense will be as stout as it normally is.