The 2021 Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl kicks off Saturday, December 18 at 3:30p p.m. ET (ABC) in Shreveport, Louisiana. This year’s edition features No. 13 BYU (10-2 SU, 4-7 ATS) and Alabama-Birmingham (8-4 SU, 9-3 ATS).
The Cougars opened as 8-point favorites at several online sportsbooks, including BetMGM and DraftKings, but there was early movement on oddsboards toward the underdog, with the line sitting between 6.5 and 7 as of this writing.
NCAAF · Sat (12/18) @ 3:30pm ET
|Independence Stadium, Shreveport, LA|
Big Cleats To Fill
BYU quarterback Jaren Hall had a tough act to follow. Zach Wilson led the Cougars to an 11-1 record in 2020 before being selected second overall in the NFL Draft. Hall has been up to the task, though.
The dual-threat sophomore has thrown for 2,583 yards while adding 307 on the ground. He’s also accounted for 23 touchdowns (three rushing) with only three interceptions.
Hall deserves plenty of credit for his part in keeping the Cougars’ line of successful quarterbacks rolling. But so much of the responsibility falls on head coach Kalani Sitake to keep the program locked in. According to Hall, Sitake does an effective job of doing just that.
“He is real with us,” said the quarterback. “If we just had a bad game he will tell us to not to be too hard on ourselves, you are human, and it is OK if we mess up to look inside yourselves. Or if you had a really good game he is really good at humbling us and bringing us back down quickly and helping us realize where all of our strength comes from and how to be humble.”
Running back Tyler Allgeier and wide receiver Puka Nacua share the offensive spotlight. Allgeier gained 1,601 scrimmage yards and scored 20 touchdowns. Nacua, meanwhile, caught 42 passes for 796 yards and six touchdowns. The trio featured prominently in two of the Cougars’ biggest victories — then-Nos. 21 Utah and 19 Arizona State.
Don’t Call It A Comeback
UAB narrowly missed a trip to the Conference USA title game, which was certainly a tough pill to swallow. However, the Blazers still earned their fifth consecutive bowl bid — hardly a small feat considering they didn’t have a program from 2015-2016.
Despite the disappointment, head coach Bill Clark and Co. are enthusiastic about the opportunity to play in the Independence Bowl.
“It’s a bowl that’s known. It’s a historical bowl,” Clark said. “There’s been a lot of great games. I’ve seen many great games, a bunch of great teams play there.”
The Blazers lean on a backfield that features three runners who have averaged over 5.0 yards per carry this season.
Sophomore DeWayne McBride leads the way with 1,188 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. Jermaine Brown Jr. and Lucious Stanley have combined for 179 touches and 1,035 total yards in backup roles.
UAB doesn’t ask quarterback Dylan Hopkins to be prolific as a passer (2,085 yards, 15-6 TD/INT). When Hopkins does throw, wide receiver Trea Shropshire and tight end Gerrit Prince are his favorite targets. Shropshire and Prince have combined for 57 receptions at 23.5 yards per catch. These two will be heavily involved if and when the Blazers have success in the explosive-plays department.
BYU-UAB Betting Considerations
With hopes of a New Year’s Six bowl bid dashed, there is naturally some disappointment within the BYU program.
Offensive lineman Blake Freeland: “I had some high hopes, but I knew it would be a stretch for (NY6). … I know UAB is a solid, good team. I know they will be a great opponent for us to play. I am excited about it.”
The players are saying the right things, and their head coach will maintain a positive outlook. However, intrinsic disappointment isn’t always so easy to cast aside. It’s reasonable to consider if this is a spot the Cougars could come out a bit flat. This isn’t to suggest that it will cost the Cougars the game. However, it could cost a bettor a wager.