• There are two Tiger football games that excite me every season, regardless of the teams’ records or positions in the Conference USA standings. One is the Black-and-Blue Game against Southern Miss. (We’ll cover this in a couple of weeks.) The other is the “Battle for the Bones” with UAB. And this Saturday’s tilt will ironically be one of the biggest battles for that 100-pound bronzed rack of ribs since the series began 14 years ago. It’s big, because pride matters.
UAB enters the game with a record of 2-8 following a beat-down by 11th-ranked Houston (56-13) on its home field. The Tigers are 2-7 and have had two weeks to prepare for the Blazers, but are also coming off a one-sided loss (41-0 at UCF on October 29th). The loser of this game will all but secure last place in C-USA’s East Division. These are bad teams, folks, each having given up around 200 more points than they’ve scored. UAB is winless on the road. The Tigers haven’t beaten a conference foe in the Liberty Bowl since October 10, 2009 (UTEP). Something must give.
• With the Tigers’ home finale scheduled for a Thursday night (November 17th against Marshall), the U of M has classified this Saturday’s game as Senior Day. It’s always one of my favorite moments on the sports calendar, seeing players — along with family members — saluted for their service to the program. It’s easy to stand, pause, and cheer a little louder when veteran players are departing after successful seasons. But the gesture is that much more important for players who have endured the trials this year’s senior class has. Among this year’s seniors, two stand out: offensive lineman Ron Leary (a starter for three years) and defensive lineman Frank Trotter (also a three-year starter and an honorable-mention All-CUSA pick in 2010). All 16, though, deserve the extra spotlight, so hats off to Michael Antonescu, Cam Baker, Dasmine Cathey, Lavaris Edwards, Andrew Ene-Ita, Billy Foster, Adam Johnson, Skylar Jones, D’Angelo McCray, Tannar Rehrer, Clint Rogers, Daniel Thomas, Terrence Thomas, and Tommy Walker.
• UAB is one of only two opponents the Tigers have faced every year since 1999 (the other is, you guessed it, Southern Miss). The Blazers own a 9-4 edge in the series, thanks largely to a seven-game winning streak between 2000 and 2006. The last Tiger victory was in 2008 (33-30 in Birmingham) and the last home win over the Blazers was in 2007 (25-9). For some perspective on how bitter this rivalry should be (at least from the Tiger side), consider that DeAngelo Williams never beat UAB.