BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – A big football weekend for Birmingham begins today with UAB playing in the Bahamas Bowl this morning and the Birmingham Bowl kicking off tomorrow.
The Blazers (8-4) cap their surprising season with just their second appearance in a bowl game. They face Ohio (8-4) at 11:30. Few expected a winning record from UAB in its first season of football since 2014. But the Blazers became one of the stories of the year in college football. Today’s game marks the end of a special year, and athletics director Mark Ingram believes it can lead to bigger goals starting next year.
“Let’s get bowl eligible again, and let’s go to another bowl so it would be the first time that we’ve gone to back-to-back bowl games,” Ingram said. “And if you’re not going to be in the College Football Playoff, then that’s how you’re measuring success is let’s start with repeated bowl games, and then let’s get to a place where we’re legitimately competing for the championship in the conference.”
UAB students and faculty will gather in the Hill Student Center on campus for a watch party today.
Tomorrow, Texas Tech and South Florida kick off in the Birmingham Bowl at 11 a.m. South Florida (9-2) beat South Carolina 46-39 in overtime in last year’s contest. Texas Tech (6-6) returns to the postseason after missing out in 2016, so it gives coach Kliff Kingsbury an opportunity to continue developing his program.
“The bowl practices, as every college coach talks about, are the biggest thing,” Kingsbury said. “And then winning the game is all about momentum, and people tend to remember the bowl victory above all else when it comes to your season. And so it sets you on the right path for 2018, and that’s what we’re shooting for.”
Both teams have had to balance focus with fun during bowl week. They’ve spent time exploring Birmingham with trips to the Civil Rights Institute, Children’s Hospital and a barbecue and bowling challenge.
“There’s that fine line that you want to balance,” Kingsbury said. “And Birmingham’s been a great situation for us, a lot of cool things to do, and it’s football country so people are excited about the game. And our team’s had a great time, but at the same time focused on the game and really had good practices.”