The college football season can’t come soon enough. With every season comes new faces and possibilities. Who will be the teams to watch out for this season? This will be the fourth of many posts covering the top 25 teams in the country and will cover no. 22 Florida Atlantic Owls.
Lane Kiffin did wonders in his first year at FAU. The Owls went 11-3, won the C-USA Championship and got a big win in the Boca Raton Bowl. With a lot of experience back, Florida Atlantic has high expectations for 2018. If everything goes their way they could be in a New Year’s Six Bowl Game at the end of the season.
Only five starters return on the offensive side of the ball, but there is reason to be optimistic. They scored the eighth-most points per game in the country at 40.6. This was supported by the sixth-best rushing offense at 285.3 yards per game. The passing game is going to need to improve, as it was below-average.
De’Andre Johnson and Chris Robison have been battling it out for the starting quarterback position. Both were at Power Five colleges before transferring into FAU. They also both have the ability to run, but need to prove they can complete a high percentage of passes to make the offense effective.
Whoever plays quarterback will have Willie Wright, a sophomore receiver, to throw to. He was the leading receiver for the Owls last season. Junior tight end Harrison Bryant also returns after a solid sophomore year. Other receivers will have to step up to help make the passing game more balanced with the highly-effective rushing attack.
Devin Singletary is the star for Florida Atlantic, with almost 3,000 career rushing yards in his two seasons. Last year he rushed for 1,918 yards and 32 touchdowns. If he continues running like this, he’s going to break a lot more records.
Only two offensive linemen return to the starting lineup from last season. Offensive Coordinator Chrlie Weis Jr. will have to figure out how to cope without the most experience at the position if they don’t perform up to par.
If the offensive line plays well and the passing offense improves, they could even be better on this side of the ball this season.
The Owls had a solid defense last year, but can be even better this season with 10 starters back in the fold. Their rankings of T-34th in points allowed per game, 57th against the run and 74th against the pass should all improve with that many players returning to Boca Raton.
They’ll have to replace one defensive tackle from the defensive line, but return Steven Leggett at the position. Defensive end is a position that has depth for the Owls, as they have several players with sacks.
Linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair led FAU with 146 total tackles and will anchor the defense. He and Rashad Smith were both playmakers as Smith tallied 6.0 sacks to tie him for the team lead. Senior Herb Miller will line up next to them creating an overall good unit.
All four starters are back from the secondary. Safety Jalen young was All-C-USA last year and led the team with 7 interceptions. Andrew Soroh is a versatile safety who also helps stop the run. Shelton Lewis and Chris Tooley provide a good tandem at the corner position. Both finished the season with four interceptions.
With three All-C-USA players and tons of experience, FAU will likely be one of the best defenses in the country.
The non-conference schedule features games against Oklahoma (away), Air Force (home), Bethune-Cookman (home) and UCF (away). The two road games will be tough, but FAU is capable of winning both. Oklahoma will be opening up with a new quarterback and a lot of new players. UCF lost head coach Scott Frost and some key players off their team. They may not win both or either, but have ample talent to compete.
In conference, there is simply no one else on FAU’s level. Their toughest opponent is Middle Tennessee who they play on the road on September 29. If they win that one, they’ll likely breeze through the rest of the C-USA schedule.
There is a possibility FAU could go undefeated. Even if they lose one game they can make a New Year’s Six Bowl Game. The problem is that their conference schedule is so weak, that if they lose one game, they’ll drop drastically in the rankings. Winning 10 to 11 games this season should be manageable for the Owls.
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