The Mississippi State Bulldogs and UAB Blazers are set to square off Saturday in a battle of undefeated teams. Solomon Crenshaw Jr. of the Alabama Media Group took time to take part in our five questions segment this week. He also joined me on the Daily Grind on Bulldog Sports Radio.
1) New UAB coach Bill Clark brings a new system to the Blazers, one that focuses on the run. How much of a change has that been for the team and how did it look against Troy?
The prior offense was a pro set that featured a tailback and a fullback. This is a spread look with three receivers, a tight end and a single back. One game into the Bill Clark era, it appears that the new offense is heavily run oriented. In reality, I don't think Clark and company meant for their first impression to lean that heavily to the run. Jordan Howard and D.J. Vinson were having their way behind that offensive line and Clark stuck with them. Those receivers could find themselves in the spotlight this week.
2) Clark infused the Blazers' roster with JUCO players. How has the decision panned out thus far?
It was an absolute must. They simply did not have enough bodies. They could not have a spring game as they only had eight offensive linemen. That shortfall aside, they needed a quick infusion of talent in a number of positions, especially in the secondary. So far, everything fits well.
3) Saturday marked the first win for UAB since last October. How important was it for this team with a new coach and new direction to get a win to start the season?
Clark downplayed the importance of the first game, guarding against the possibility that a loss could ensue. Now he admits that it was huge, which is what I and everyone else already knew. A program that had known so very little success the past two years HAD to have something on which it could hang its hat. They could have survived a loss but it would have certainly made it tougher to keep everyone enthused. Thus, UAB is 1-0 for the first time since 2009.
4) Where does UAB match up the best against Mississippi State?
On paper, UAB doesn't match up well. State's big and strong up front on both sides.
5) The Blazers entered the week as 28.5-point underdogs. What will they have to do to stay close and possibly spring the upset against Mississippi State?
UAB has to find a way to move the ball against a really good defense. They'll have to hold turnovers to a minimum - like none - and keep the ball moving through whatever means they can. That offense will likely be their best defense. As for the defense, it will have to vary its attack to deal with an attack that begins with Dak Prescott and includes Birmingham native De'Runnya Wilson.