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Bahamas Bowl: UAB searches for a fairytale ending to its first season back

UAB quarterback A.J. Erdely, left, looks for a receiver as he is pressured by Florida defensive lineman Jabari Zuniga (92) during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

BAHAMAS BOWL
UAB (8-4) vs. Ohio (8-4)
12:30 p.m. ET Friday, December 22 (ESPN)
Ohio -7, O/U: 59

HOW THESE TEAMS GOT HERE

UAB: What a long, strange trip it’s been for UAB. The program was shut down for two seasons after the 2014 season and returned in 2017. Lo and behold, Bill Clark has his team in a bowl game in its first season back. UAB had a weird loss to Charlotte in the middle of the season but was otherwise a solid Conference USA team and won four of its final five games.

Ohio: The Bobcats should have won the MAC East, but lost to Akron in the next-to-last week of the season and then lost to Buffalo in the final week of the regular season. Did the motivation disappear after the loss to Akron? Before the loss to the Zips, Ohio had won four-straight games.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

A.J. Erdely, QB, UAB: The Blazers’ quarterback has scored 29 total touchdowns in 2017. His rushing numbers aren’t eye-popping with a 2.5 yards per carry average, but he’s scored 13 touchdowns on the ground. And he’s completed over 60 percent of his passes and thrown 16 touchdowns to just four interceptions.

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN – SEPTEMBER 08: Nathan Rourke #12 of the Ohio Bobcats throws a pass in the second half of a game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross-Ade Stadium on September 8, 2017 in West Lafayette, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Nathan Rourke, QB, Ohio: Rourke sees Erdely’s 29 total touchdowns and scoffs. The Ohio QB had 36 total touchdowns. Rourke has rushed for 882 yards and 21 scores while throwing for 15. He’s thrown more interceptions (7) than Erdely has and has completed a lesser percentage of his passes. But still … the touchdowns are going to come from the quarterbacks in this game.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH

Because the Bahamas Bowl tends to get weird. And you may have the Friday before Christmas off and it’s better than going out and Christmas shopping. If only Popeye’s was still sponsoring this bowl game.

WHAT’S ON THE LINE

An Ohio bowl win would be the school’s first since winning the Independence Bowl in 2012. It would also be the team’s first nine-win season since that year. The Bobcats are just 2-8 in bowl games.

For UAB, the game is just the second bowl appearance in school history and a win would be a program first. How cool would it be if 2017 was that year?

PREDICTIONS

Nick: UAB 23, Ohio 17
Sam: UAB 27, Ohio 24

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!