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Bahamas Bowl Preview
Editor’s note: Brian Edwards has hit five of his last seven guaranteed plays after easily cashing in with La. Tech on Wednesday. He’s 63-51 for the season (55.3%, +7.26 units). Don’t miss out tonight’s pay-if-it-wins-only selection or you can go ahead and sign up for his entire postseason package!

Alabama-Birmingham folded its program due to financial issues following the 2014 season and didn’t field a team for two years. Nevertheless, in its first season back on the gridiron, UAB (8-4 straight up, 8-3-1 against the spread) is going bowling.

In fact, Bill Clark’s team is headed to one of the best places in the world in late December. That would be the Bahamas Bowl, where the Blazers will face Ohio at Thomas Robinson Stadium in Nassau on Friday afternoon. ESPN will have the telecast at 12:30 p.m. Eastern.

As of Thursday afternoon, most betting shops had Ohio (8-4 SU, 8-4 ATS) listed as a 6.5-point favorite with a total of 59. UAB was available on the money line for a +230 payout (risk $100 to win $230).

Frank Solich’s team went into its last two regular-season games with a four-game winning streak both SU and ATS. Going back further, Ohio had posted a 7-1 record both SU and ATS in its past eight outings. It was on the verge of clinching the MAC East and securing a spot in the conference championship game.

However, Ohio lost a 37-34 decision at Akron as a 14.5-point road favorite on Nov. 14. This gave the Zips the tiebreaker over the Bobcats if they finished tied atop the division standings. But Solich’s squad could still win the loop if it won at Buffalo in the regular-season finale.

The Bulls weren’t having it, though. They won a 31-24 decision over Ohio as 6.5-point home underdogs. The Bobcats rallied from a 24-7 deficit late in the second quarter with 17 unanswered points to pull even with 53 ticks left in the third. Buffalo got the go-ahead score on Emmanuel Reed’s one-yard TD run with 8:10 remaining, and Ohio didn’t have an answer at crunch time.

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Ohio had a 424-350 advantage over Buffalo in total offense, but it was undone by a pair of turnovers that left them minus two in TO margin. Nathan Rourke threw for 265 yards and one TD with one interception. The sophomore signal caller ran for 49 yards and a pair of scores on 16 attempts.

True freshman RB Julian Ross rushed for 81 yards on 19 carries, while redshirt freshman WR Cameron Odom had two receptions for 85 yards and one TD.

Ohio has been a single-digit favorite five times this year, compiling a 4-1 record both SU and ATS. Meanwhile, UAB has gone 5-2 ATS with four outright victories in seven games as an underdog.

Ohio isn’t expected to have its leading rusher A.J. Ouellette, who is listed as ‘doubtful’ with a shoulder injury sustained at Buffalo. Ouellette rushed for 985 yards and seven TDs with a 5.3 yards-per-carry average during the regular season. He also had nine catches for 84 yards and one TD.

Rourke was second on the team in rushing with 877 yards and 21 TDs, averaging 6.5 YPC. The Bobcats’ third-leading rusher Dorian Brown is listed as ‘questionable’ with a hip injury. Brown has run for 605 yards and seven TDs while averaging 6.1 YPC.

Rourke has completed 54.2 percent of his throws for 2,031 yards with a 15/7 touchdown-to-interception ratio. His favorite target is Papi White, who has 31 receptions for 520 yards and four TDs. Brendan Cope, a senior wideout who is ‘questionable’ with a knee injury, has made 35 catches for 494 yards and four TDs.

Ohio is ranked 13th in the country in scoring, averaging 38.9 points per game. The Bobcats are 37th in total offense and 17th in rushing yards (245.8 YPG). They’re 11th in the nation in rushing defense, allowing only 111.5 yards per game.

The Ohio defense is led by senior LB Quentin Poling, a two-time first-team All-MAC selection who has recorded 102 tackles, 5.5 sacks, seven tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, five QB hurries and four passes broken up this year.

This is Ohio’s ninth postseason appearance during Solich’s 13-year tenure. The Bobcats had been to only two bowls games – in 1962 and ’68 – before his arrival in Athens. However, they’ve lost three straight bowls, including last year’s 28-23 setback against Troy as 4.5-point underdogs at the Dollar General Bowl. Ohio is 2-6 in eight postseason games under Solich, 2-8 in program history.

UAB’s accomplishments earned Clark National Coach of the Year honors. The Blazers are in just their second bowl game in program history. In the first, they lost 59-40 as four-point road underdogs at Hawaii in the 2004 Hawaii Bowl.

UAB won six of its last eight regular-season games, including a 28-7 win over UTEP as a 21-point home ‘chalk’ in its finale. The only defeats during this eight-game span were at Florida (36-7) and at Charlotte (25-24) in overtime.

In the win over Miners, junior QB A.J. Erdely threw for 159 yards and two TDs without an interception. True freshman RB Spencer Brown ran for 98 yards on 22 carries, while Erdely rushed for 29 yards and one score on 11 attempts. Junior WR Collin Lisa had seven receptions for 76 yards and one TD.

For the season, Erdely completed 61.8 percent of his passes for 2,077 yards with an excellent 16/4 TD-INT ratio. He also rushed for 295 yards and 13 TDs. Brown paced UAB with 1,292 rushing yards and 10 TDs while averaging 5.5 YPC.

Andre Wilson has a team-best 48 receptions for 619 yards and six TDs, while Lisa has 29 catches for 384 yards and one TD.

UAB’s stop unit is led by senior LB Tevin Crews, who has 95 tackles, one interception, three sacks, nine TFL’s, three PBU, one QB hurry and one forced fumble. Senior LB Shaq Jones enjoyed an outstanding campaign as well, contributing 55 tackles, three sacks, nine TFL’s, two PBU, two QB hurries and one forced fumble.

The ‘under’ is 8-4 overall for UAB after cashing in its last three games and finished the year on a 7-1 surge. The Blazers have watched their games average combined scores of 53.9 PPG.

The ‘over’ is 8-3-1 overall for the Bobcats, 4-1-1 in their last six games. They’ve seen their games average combined scores of 64.7 PPG.

Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards

  
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