GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Gators (3-6) will host the UAB Blazers (7-3) Saturday in the penultimate game of the regular season. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. ET and the game will be televised on the SEC Network.
The Gators are on a five-game losing streak and are dealing with injuries, another turn on the quarterback carousel and the outside noise of a coaching search. The Blazers are bowl eligible in their first season back since 2014 and are sitting in second place in Conference USA.
SEC Country writers Zach Abolverdi, Jordan McPherson and Ryan Young make their predictions for the game.
Abolverdi: This is a team Florida should beat
More than a month has passed since the Gators last played at home, but they return to The Swamp on Saturday. Florida is on a five-game losing streak and injuries continue to handicap the roster. Fortunately for the Gators, conference play is over and they’re not facing an SEC-caliber team this weekend.
UAB eliminated its football program in December 2014 and this is the program’s first season back after a two-year hiatus. The Blazers are playing surprisingly well in 2017 and have a 7-3 record. Their players will be pumped for this game and may keep the score close if Florida gets off to another slow start.
Despite how disastrous the season has been for the Gators, this is a team that they should beat. I don’t expect it to be easy or pretty, but Georgia Southern isn’t running through that tunnel Saturday.
McPherson: A guaranteed win isn’t guaranteed anymore
I’ll keep this short and sweet.
Yes, Florida should win this game against UAB on Saturday under almost any circumstance. The Gators are at home, have a more talented roster and should steamroll a Group of 5 team that is back on the football scene for the first time since 2014.
But with everything this football team has gone through this year — and with the way this season has unfolded — I can’t help but go back to that 2013 season. The 4-8 year. And, fittingly for this week, the Georgia Southern game that ended in a 26-20 loss. And on the other side, UAB is 7-3, ranked 28th in the country in rushing offense (averaging 210.5 yards per game) and is putting up an average of 32 points per game.
Somehow, an almost guaranteed win isn’t guaranteed anymore.
With the injuries and the outside noise that have impacted Florida this season, this will be a close game. And with the way this season has gone, the way this last month and a half has gone, that’s too close for me to pick in Florida’s favor.
Young: It’s Florida’s game to lose
I predict Chip Kelly ends up … oh, wait, different kind of prediction. It’s easy to forget Florida has a game this week.
The Gators have not only lost five straight games, but they’ve continued to lose key starters to injury each week and come into this matchup with UAB down two offensive linemen and forced to turn back to redshirt freshman QB Feleipe Franks yet again. UAB, meanwhile, is 7-3, in second place in Conference USA and riding a three-game winning streak.
All that said, I don’t see the Blazers pulling the upset. They are in their first season as a program after a two-year hiatus. It’s impressive what they’ve done so far, but I think Florida squeezes out a win in The Swamp.
I’ll take the Gators, 27-24.