Coming off its bye week, FAU (3-3, 1-1) still needs a few more outcomes to go its way, but FIU defeating Middle Tennessee on Saturday marked the first domino the Owls needed to fall if they are going to repeat as C-USA champs.
The Owls lost control of their own destiny by losing to MTSU 25-24 in the Conference USA opener. The Blue Raiders had been undefeated in conference play prior to Saturday’s
“We screwed up, obviously,” FAU coach Lane Kiffin said. “Things got out of our control with that. We need some help.”
MTSU’s first loss of the season didn’t exactly let FAU off the hook of its poor second half performance against the Blue Raiders.
Middle Tennessee still holds the primary, head-to-head, tiebreaker over the Owls, and three-way tiebreakers with MTSU, FAU and another East Division school don’t favor Florida Atlantic, meaning
the Blue Raiders still likely need to lose another game for the Owls to pass them in the standings.
MTSU sports a favorable schedule the remainder of the way, but it may have to win some of those games without quarterback Brent Stockstill, who injured an ankle in the loss to FIU. The Murfreesboro Daily News Journal reported on Monday that Stockstill’s status remains uncertain for Saturday’s game against Charlotte.
“Obviously that was some help,” Kiffin said of FIU’s victory. “Obviously they’re a much different team when they lose their quarterback last year and this year. He’s a great player and everything runs though their quarterback, so when he’s out of there they’re obviously very different.”
Any scenario that lands FAU in the C-USA title game almost certainly involves the Owls winning the remainder of the games. That won’t be easy.
The Owls still have to travel to East Division leader FIU and West Division favorite North Texas, with Louisiana Tech – another West Division favorite – coming to Boca Raton. Fortunately for the Owls they do not face West Division leader UAB, currently 3-0 in C-USA play. The Blue Raiders conclude their season against the Blazers in Murfreesboro.
“We need some more help but we’ve got a lot of work to do ourselves and (MTSU doesn’t) have a very difficult schedule,” Kiffin said. “We’re just focused on this week.”
This week’s opponent could well be the toughest on the Owls’ remaining schedule. A traditional power within Conference USA, Marshall (4-2, 2-1) defeated FAU both times the teams met in Huntington, W. Va. Last season Marshall gave FAU its toughest test in C-USA play before falling 30-25 in a game that went down to the final play.
The Thundering Herd are coming off a 42-20 victory over Old Dominion.
“This is a lot harder game than most people think it is,” Kiffin said.