College football has finally returned to its faithful followers. This Saturday at 7:00 PM, the Florida Gators take on the Florida Atlantic Owls at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. FAU Head coach Howard Schnellenberger is expecting his team to improve now that the new FAU Stadium has been built. Unfortunately for the Owls, they won't be getting that much needed home-field advantage against their in-state neighbour, the University of Florida.
The Owls quarterback situation has some serious questions. After four separate quarterbacks competed in the Spring and Fall, Jared Allen, FAU's quarterback coach, named Redshirt Junior Graham Wilbert the starter this season. However, he lacks any significant playtime experience. Last season, he combined with fellow Redshirt Junior David Kooi for a total of seven attempted passes. In addition, Wilbert injured his hand in the first half of the FAU spring game, causing the competition to carry over into the preseason practices. FAU could face serious trouble if the injury begins to spring back up throughout the season.
The running game remains FAU's offensive strongpoint. Alfred Morris accumulated 1,392 yards two years ago, but only 928 yards last season. Nevertheless, FAU had five new linemen. Morris needs just 725 yards to break FAU's all-time rushing statistics. Morris also has some depth behind him with Senior Willie Floyd. Floyd has suffered through multiple injuries throughout his career.
Another huge question is the lack of recievers on the team. FAU returns only one receiver who caught a pass last season; DeAndre Richardson caught 12 balls for 114 yards last year. Richardson will have to really step up in a leadership roll to help this team move forwards on offense. There is also some hype around fellow receiver Marcus Cunningham, described as "an extremely hard worker and very intelligent football player" by offensive coordinator Daryl Jackson.
Last year the Owls allowed 36 sacks, putting them in the bottom 10 teams in the country in rushing offense and scoring. Jackson says the chemistry between the linemen is stronger and all five of them return. Because of the extra year of experience, the line should improve significantly. Side Note: FAU was also also 107th in total offense.
The new stadium will go a long way in improving the Owls football program, however, there will be no strong immediate impact for Florida Atlantic University, who will likely have a third losing season in a row.
Final Score: Florida 38, FAU 7