Theoretically winning ugly is still appreciated. In college football, the poll factor — that requirement to impress the judges ranking you — complicates things. Football is by nature a grind and though rules changes have made it easier to score and put up what were once video game numbers, it still has its rough-and-ugly DNA pumping through its veins.
UAB has not played beautiful football since its Return. That is, not what the casual fan would think is beautiful. For lovers of good defense, quality line play, and execution, there is plenty to ogle. Thus far, UAB has the one blemish against a superior talent in Miami and D’Eriq King. The team has its flaws and because of that it will not dominate from start to finish like the squad in Tuscaloosa.
Bill Clark has the best team in the West, however. This pandemic season has upended most of our perceptions of normal and there is little that can be compared easily across teams. Some teams are playing their openers, and others are at four or so. We wrote about the state of each of the teams recently, and little changed our opinion this week. There is talent in Ruston, Denton, and Hattiesburg but not enough, and little in the way of consistency to think anyone can beat UAB — especially in Birmingham.
In this game, there was some concern about how close the game was. You can either praise UTSA or blame UAB. There was a little of both to share among the teams. UAB played a game that a great team would have exploited, and a good team would take advantage off. UTSA mostly just hung around.
That is not a knock on UTSA, (some of whose internet fans take umbrage at anything less than effusive praise of the performance in that 21-13 loss). 1 UAB is good enough to win playing pretty poorly and there are few teams in the west that can take full advantage of a poor-effort UAB.
North Texas is explosive, but also prone to self-sabotage. USM is explosive when they have a complete team, and they won’t, and they also are prone to some self-sabotage. La Tech has talent, but is not a complete team right now, and is dealing with roster issues. UTEP is bad, Rice is just starting out.
Out east Marshall is more formidable and FAU are the reigning champs. That’s it, however. If UAB simply plays to par, they should be in whatever passes for the 2020 league title game.
The Rest of The League
USM 41-31 — Jack Abraham threw an interception on the road — stop me if you have heard this before! — but USM played much better than they did last week vs Tulane. The defense still was caught chasing wide open receivers but North Texas helpfully dropped open passes or missed those altogether. The run game shone brightly — but the caveat is that NT is pretty bad against the run. There was a lot to like, and if NT is a bad team (they are) USM was able to win on the road against a bad team and that means something. Scotty Walden won his first game.
FAU 21-13 — Willie Taggart took the blame for the poor first half but that was likely an example of him being a player’s coach. Charlotte had a 10-0 lead for a while until a third-quarter explosion of offense from FAU. The Gulf-Coast offense favored by Taggart involves a lot of QB runs and we saw Nick Tronti run free for a quarter. FAU’s defense showed up late to seal things. Both teams will look at a couple of quarters and complain and look for inspiration to get better. Both teams will also look at the other half of the game as an example of what they can be.
WKU 20 – Middle 17 — Remember when this matchup was a high-scoring thriller with league title implications? Same. WKU won a close game in a battle of dual threat QBs who were hardly impressive.
BYU 45 La Tech 14 — The less said about this the better. Tech was thoroughly beaten by a superior team.
For me, UTSA has had more than their share of moral victories and cool, impressive losses in the 9 years of FBS play. That this is shaping up to be the fourth winning season in that time is fine, but the program has an overall losing record, just the one bowl appearance (a loss) and one questionable coaching hire. Traylor may be the guy but it will take more than close losses to move the needle. Thus far UTSA has been mostly mid-level conference, neither entertaining nor boring. The Texas State win was relatively impressive, but that’s about it.We have to wait and see what kind of team this will be. ↩