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UAB (1-2) at Vanderbilt (2-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 28, 7:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Vanderbilt Stadium (40,550) -- Nashville, Tennessee. Television: FSN, ESPN3.com. Home Record: UAB 1-0, Vanderbilt 1-1. Away Record: UAB 0-2, Vanderbilt 1-1. Neutral Record: UAB 0-0, Vanderbilt 0-0. Conference Record: UAB 0-0, Vanderbilt 0-2. Series Record: Vanderbilt leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: In a tune-up before getting back to SEC action, the Vanderbilt Commodores play host to the UAB Blazers on Saturday night.
UAB notched its first win of the season last weekend by trouncing Northwestern State at home, 52-28, but it has not fared well away from home, having lost at Troy (34-31) and LSU (56-17). In 15 games under head coach Garrick McGee, the Blazers are just 4-11, with only one of those wins coming away from Birmingham.
Vanderbilt has yet to enjoy any sort of consistent success this season, having alternated losses and wins since dropping the season opener against Ole Miss, 39-35. The Commodores are off to a disappointing 0-2 start in the SEC, having also lost at South Carolina (35-25), but while they suffered a bit of a scare last week at Massachusetts, they pulled away with 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to win, 24-7.
The Commodores won the only previous matchup between the two squads back in 1996, 31-15.
Despite its struggles early in the season, UAB has been one of the more impressive offensive squads in Conference USA, scoring 33.3 ppg on 399.0 ypg, although it would surely like to see its third-down conversion percentage (.275) improve.
Austin Brown (596 passing yards) has underwhelmed with his pass attempts, completing just 38-of-73 (.521), but he has tossed six touchdowns paired with only one interception in three starts.
Jamarcus Nelson (301 yards, four TDs) and Jamari Staples (170 yards, two TDs) have both been home-run threats for Brown at receiver, with each averaging greater than 18 yards per catch.
Darrin Reaves has established himself as one of C-USA's top running backs, turning 53 carries into 366 yards (second most in the league) and three touchdowns. Jordan Howard (126 yards, TD) also sees time behind Reaves.
Unfortunately for the Blazers, their poor defensive play has overshadowed the solid work by the offense, as they allow nearly 40 points per contest on 428.7 ypg.
Jake Ganus leads the unit with 25 tackles and 2.0 TFL to go along with a forced fumble. Jimmy Jean has the team's lone interception, and Diaheem Watkins has recorded 1.5 sacks.
Vanderbilt's offense has performed admirably thus far, with 30.5 ppg and 385.5 ypg, but in a loaded SEC, both numbers fail to elevate it out of the bottom- third of the league rankings.
Austyn Carta-Samuels has been turnover prone with four interceptions, but he's completing nearly 61 percent of his passes for 889 yards and six touchdowns while also making the most of his limited rushing opportunities (63 yards, three TDs).
Jordan Matthews is without question one of the nation's best receivers, ranking fourth in the FBS in both catches (32) and yards (471) while scoring three touchdowns. His streak of three straight 100-yard games to start the year was snapped last week against UMass, but he was still very productive with eight receptions for 76 yards and a score. Jonathan Krause (15 receptions, 241 yards, TD) is able to take advantage of the extra attention opposing defenses give Matthews.
Wesley Tate leads the team in carries (46) and rushing yards (191 yards) to go with a pair of touchdowns, while Jerron Seymour had been just as, if not more effective (35 carries, 179 yards, four TDs).
The Commodores defense has taken a step backward from their outstanding 2012 campaign, but they have still been a solid unit overall, allowing 21.0 ppg and 363.8 ypg.
The unit has permitted teams to convert third downs at a 46 percent rate (and 5-of-6 on fourth downs) and has recorded just one interception. Kenny Ladler is the team's top tackler with 30, while Caleb Azubike and Kyle Woestmann have two sacks apiece.
Although there are some concerns about Vanderbilt's long-term prospects this season with regards to its placement in the stacked SEC, it still has plenty of talent to dismiss an inferior non-conference opponent on its home field, particularly a UAB squad that has struggled as much as it has on the road in recent years.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Vanderbilt 38, UAB 20
09/25 10:36:05 ET