Orlando Sentinel college insider Matt Murschel has ranked all 125 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. The Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 125 to our projected No. 1 team.
Today at No. 109: UAB
Coach: Garrick McGee (3-9, second season; 3-9 overall)
2012 record: 3-9 (2-6 in Conference USA, fifth in C-USA East)
Look back: It was a year of transition for the Blazers in their first season under coach Garrick McGee, who previously had led offenses at Arkansas and Northwestern. UAB opened the season with four consecutive losses, including two on the road to South Carolina and Ohio State and one at home by seven points to eventual Conference USA champion Tulsa. McGee got his first win when the Blazers rolled to a 52-3 victory over Southeastern Louisiana. Although the UAB offense averaged 28.3 points per game, it struggled to find a winning formula. The Blazers lost five of their final seven contests. The team gave up an average of 37.5 points per game, the 10th-worst average in the nation.
Offensive starters returning: 5
Offensive starters lost: 7
Defensive starters returning: 7
Defensive starters lost: 4
Key losses: LB Marvin Burdette, LB Greg Irvin, OL Chris Hubbard, WR Nick Adams, WR Patrick Hearn, TE Sam Accursio
Top returnees: QB Austin Brown, RB Darrin Reaves, WR Jackie Williams, TE Kennard Backman, DE Connor Boyett, DT Deric Scott, LB Patrick Bastien
Strengths: In its second season under McGee, the offense returns three key players at the skill positions — QB Austin Brown, RB Darrin Reaves and WR Jackie Williams. Reaves rushed for 1,037 yards and 13 touchdowns last season en route to earning first-team All-Conference USA honors. In his second season, Brown should improve, especially in his touchdown to interception ratio (15-12 in 2012), after throwing for 2,673 yards as a freshman. More experience on the defensive should help a team that gave up 182.7 yards per game on the ground last season.
Weaknesses: The Blazers were dreadful on defense last season and have to replace their top performer from last season. LB Marvin Burdette, who led the NCAA in tackles last season with an average of 13.08 per game, is gone. McGee has tried to bolster the defense by switching players to new positions, including moving some over from the offense. The Blazers were eighth-worst in the country in pass efficiency defense (151.48), and had one of the country's worst turnover ratios (101st nationally). Brown has to cut down on the 12 interceptions he posted last season and UAB focused on creating takeaways during spring practice.
Outlook: UAB should improve during McGee's second season, but the Blazers once again face a difficult schedule. The team opens the season with games at Troy and LSU and later will make a trip to Vanderbilt.
The offense should be able to keep pace with any team in C-USA, especially if Reaves can build on last season's rushing numbers, but the defense has to be stronger if the Blazers are going to win more games.
Aug. 31 at Troy
Sept. 7 at LSU
Sept. 21 Northwestern State
Sept. 28 at Vanderbilt
Oct. 5 FAU
Oct. 12 at FIU
Oct. 26 at UTSA
Nov. 2 Middle Tennessee
Nov. 9 at Marshall
Nov. 16 at East Carolina
Nov. 21 Rice
Nov. 30 Southern Miss