FAU and UAB, the last two champions of the league will battle in Boca Raton for the 2019 league title. If the game is missing something like an electric atmosphere it is because there are real questions about UAB being the west’s best team. They were simply handled by Southern Miss, a team that had chances to seal an appearance but fumbled them away. Louisiana Tech committed self-harm by losing their starting QB for a couple of games for reasons unpublicized.
None of that is taking away from the accomplishments of this Blazer team. The defense is still good and the coaching is still solid. This iteration of the team could not hold a candle to last year’s team, which went through the league much more convincingly. Add to all of that the fact that the league’s west division, of which UAB are champions, is probably the worst in FBS.
Facing them is a Florida Atlantic team that is making headlines for perhaps losing their head coach. The 2017 title team looked vicious and exciting as it blasted all comers with a Kid Briles-coordinated offense relying on current Buffalo Bill “Motor” Singletary. It was unrelenting and the defense was opportunistic. There was real reason to think of the team as top-25 worthy. All that recruited talent that Lane brought in combined with the roster that already had lots of talent was unleashed upon the league. This year’s team has some of the names but none of the enthusiasm.
Yes, there is #WinningInParadise but there are not a lot of people showing up to see it, an affliction seen all across the game. The Owls won a lot in this league but the non-conference performance dampened national enthusiasm for this team. That the entire league was fairly awful in non-conference did not help the interest in league play. FAU did win against the league fairly easily except when it played Marshall. Like with UAB there is a sense that we maybe are not setting the best team in the game.
None of that matters because the game is not played on paper. The Blazers and the Owls are both in a title game in a down year — but rather than being a condemnation of these two teams, the rest of the league should do some soul-searching. In such a weak year why did they not take full advantage?
Florida Atlantic are the favorites in this one, for being at home and for having the more complete team. The Blazer defense is mighty formidable but the UAB offense is the weakness. Early in the year there were unforced turnovers and the run game has not quite gotten unstuck. FAU, meanwhile, is led by Chris Robison, a talent and one that has matured into his role. The offense is not the existential force it was in 2017, but it is still good.
The one clear advantage that Lane Kiffin brings his team is a game-planning one. He has always had good offenses and is known for his ability to scheme up a play or two that will change the game. However if the rumors that he has been negotiating a move to Arkansas are true, there is a possibility that he has been distracted from the task at hand. His former boss Nick Saban fired him for such an offense before he took this very same FAU gig.
Meanwhile Bill Clark is also the subject of some rumors — nothing clear or obvious but still brought up in these various rumors when a job opens. One of these two catches will end today with two Conference USA titles to their name, and that looks mighty good on a resume for the next gig or a raise.