FAU tight end Alex DeLeon hauls in a pass against No. 1 Alabama last week in the Owls' 40-7 loss to the Crimson Tide. (Photo Courtesy of Ralph Notaro/ Owl Pix)
Two tested teams
FAU and North Texas have both played top-quality teams this season, but only one one team will earn its first victory over an FBS team Saturday.
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BOCA RATON – There was the first game under FAU coach Carl Pelini, followed by the first road game and then two games on the road vs. top 10 teams from the SEC.
The preliminaries are over and starting with Saturday's game vs. North Texas, the Owls (1-3, 0-1 Sun Belt Conference) will have a chance at being competitive with the eight teams remaining on the schedule.
While the short-term goal is for the Owls to show improvement each game, a victory would be beneficial as well.
“It would be good for us,” Pelini said of the significance of possibly beating the Mean Green. “At some point it needs to show on the field all the hard work they’re putting in during the week. It would certainly be a boost for everyone, the program, the players, the coaches. But I’m not going to sit here and say we can’t keep getting better if that doesn’t happen or we can’t lay a foundation. But I’m starting to feel that we need to do that at some point here.”
And the Mean Green (1-3, 0-1) could be coming in at the right time. Like FAU, North Texas is 1-3, with a victory over an FCS team, a loss to a Sun Belt team and two losses to two top 10 teams. While FAU is coming off losses to Georgia and Alabama, the Mean Green has also played a challenging schedule with losses to LSU and Kansas State.
“North Texas is saying 'If we can do that against Kansas State and LSU' and that's the real danger here,” Pelini said. “You can't look at say 'well, we played these guys so this is going to be different' and neither can they. They can't say 'we played LSU and Kansas State so playing Florida Atlantic is going to be different' We have to approach it that same way.”
Keys to the Game: Mean Green @ Owls
Key For FAU
Get In Rhythm: The Owls' offense has bogged down when it comes out and struggles. FAU needs to get quarterback Graham Wilbert feeling good and build some confidence, because he is a different quarterback after he directs the offense to a few first downs.
Key For North Texas
Keep running: The Owls are the worst team in the Sun Belt at stopping the run this season, allowing 252 yards per game. Led by freshman Antoinne Jimmerson's 305 yards in four games this season, the Mean Green are sure to try and force FAU to stop their running attack.
FAU CB Keith Reaser vs. North Texas WR Brelan Chancellor: Reaser has the tools to shut-down Chancellor, who is the Mean Green's big-play receiver and has scored four touchdowns already this season.
29 – Combined penalties for FAU (12) and North Texas this season. The Owls are third in the nation with 30.2 penalty yards per game and the Mean Green 10th nationally with 44 penalty yards per game.
11 – Seniors on scholarship for both the Owls and the Mean Green, tied for eighth for the fewest in the FBS.
22,041 – Average home attendance for North Texas, which like FAU, opened its on-campus stadium last season.