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UAB enters the contest on an eight-game winning streak, though the Blazers were taken to overtime last weekend against Southern Miss. However, it is an incredibly impressive year for the team considering the programs first season after reinstituting its football program was last season.
At the helm of the offense is quarterback A.J. Erdely, who began his career at Middle Tennessee State. Not seen as an incredibly dangerous thrower, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound senior is completing a little over 57 percent of his passes while he has seven touchdowns and six interceptions. However, Erdely has limited mistakes when they matter and has also proven himself to be more of a running threat this year. He is second on the team in rushing with 305 yards and five touchdowns.
Leading the way on the ground for the Blazers is Spencer Brown. The 6-foot, 220-pound sophomore has run for 913 yards and 15 touchdowns on the season and has proven to be a bit of a workhorse at running back. His longest run of the season is only 28 yards as he simply grinds and moves the chains.
At receiver, Erdelys favorite targets are Collin Lisa, Andre Wilson and Xavier Ubosi. The latter is the big-play threat as the 6-foot-3, 215-pound senior is averaging over 28 yards per reception.
Texas A&M has a quarterback that is a threat both through the air and on the ground himself. Sophomore Kellen Mond has had his ups and downs but is coming off one of his best games of the year after accounting for four touchdowns vs. Ole Miss. Like Erdely, Mond is also the teams second-leading rusher.
He is well behind Trayveon Williams in that category, though. The 5-foot-9, 200-pound junior leads the SEC with 1,159 yards and was named a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award.
Ben Baby, Texas A&M football beat writer for SportsDayDFW.com and The Dallas Morning News, answered your questions about the team and the SEC in a live chat recently. Here are some of the highlights.
A week ago, A&M got starting sophomore wide receiver Jhamon Ausbon back and he had several big catches to move the chains vs. the Rebels. Tight end Jace Sternberger, a Mackey Award semifinalist, leads the team in all receiving categories while Quartney Davis has really come into his own at wideout this year.
Texas A&Ms defense ranks No. 2 nationally against the run, but the Aggies have struggled with giving up big pass plays this year. The team is also ranked No. 128 out of 129 FBS teams with only five forced turnovers on the year. Linebackers Otaro Alaka and Tyrel Dodson are very good against run while safety Donovan Wilson is the teams second-leading tackler. Defensive ends Kingsley Keke and Landis Durham lead the team in sacks.
The UAB defense has been good against the pass this season as safety MarSean Diggs and cornerback Brontae Harris both have multiple interceptions. Senior inside linebacker Chris Woolbright is the teams leading tackler with 54 stops and 11.5 tackles for loss while defensive end Jamell Garcia-Williams has 7.5 sacks and linebacker Tre Crawford six.
Question: Lets be honest: Should we go ahead and hand the trophy to Alabama right now? Or do you sincerely believe that the Crimson Tide can be defeated?
Nothing as far as conference championship implications are concerned but the Blazers can earn a statement win against Texas A&M. It would also give the program its first 10-win season in school history.
1. Early shots downfield. The Aggies have one of the worst pass defenses in the nation – ranking 104th and allowing 256.5 ypg through the air – and matters were made worse last week when safety Myles Jones was called for targeting with less than a minute remaining against Ole Miss. He was ejected from the game and will miss the first half against the Blazers so dont be surprised if Tyler Johnston takes a few deep shots to Xavier Ubosi or Kailon Carter to get things going.
Question: If the SEC were to get two teams in the playoff for a second straight season, are we finally headed towards CFP expansion?
2. Defense keeping it close. Texas A&M is middle of the pack as far as offense is concerned – 34th in passing and 43rd in rushing – and face one of the best defenses in the nation in the Blazers. The Aggies have scored more than 26 points only three times this season but that was against bad defenses in Northwestern State (111th in the FCS), Louisiana-Monroe (95th) and Ole Miss (125th). The Blazers can keep it close if the defense plays up to its standard which in turn gives the offense a chance to succeed.
3. Staying healthy. As opposed to last year, the Blazers have had to overcome significant injuries this season. Starting center Lee Dufour broke an arm against North Texas but Greg Fecanin has not missed a beat while A.J. Erdely has dealt with an injured throwing shoulder with Tyler Johnston filling in admirably. Garrett Marino and Jarrion Street have also been dealing with injuries but are more day-to-day and week-to-week decisions. Clark said he would try a few different things this week in practice and it would come as no surprise if he gave a few veterans some rest or even held a few players out rather than further risk an injury with Middle Tennessee State and the CUSA Championship Game up next.
Question: Is it a sure bet that LilJordan Humphrey and Collin Johnson are headed to the NFL after this season?
The Blazers are built on a physical rushing attack but Texas A&M is the second best team in the land at stopping the run. If the offensive line can get a strong push upfront to open holes for Spencer Brown and company, the Blazers have a much better chance at pulling the upset on the road.
The Aggies have a 1,000-yard rusher in Trayveon Williams and a dynamic quarterback in Kellen Mond but Sternberger is arguably one of the best tight ends in the nation. Hes the leading receiver for A&M with 644 yards and six touchdowns and is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenders.