It’s a conversation starter often employed by fans and prognosticators who have never watched Florida Atlantic play and often spell “FAU” with an “I”.
But, hey, when it comes to predictions it’s go big or go home, right? At OwlAccess.com we’re not going to predict the outcome of FAU’s season-opener at No. 7 Oklahoma. That’s not our style. But having been regulars at FAU fall camp, scrimmages and Oklahoma prep, we do have some informed opinions as to what we think could happen on Saturday. Here are this week’s Bold FAU Predictions.
FAU Offense vs. Oklahoma
CHUCK KING: The quarterback who starts for FAU at Oklahoma won’t be the one who finishes the game.
He also won’t be the one who starts against Air Force. Lane Kiffin has yet to name a starting quarrterback. De’Andre Johnson had the biggest head start in the three-way QB competition, having played briefly last season. While the Owls rotated the three QBs during team portions of practices, Johnson often enjoyed the first shot with first team. One FAU player characterized Johnson as the “alpha” of the QB unit. But over the past two weeks Chris Robison and Rafe Peavey have outperformed Johnson.
Robsion is the most physically talented. Peavey is an accurate passer and seems to have a surprisingly solid grasp on the Owls’ offense. Expect all three to play against Oklahoma. If Robison shows he can play within the framework of the offense with too much freelancing, he’ll be the starter moving forward. He’s the Owls’ quarterback of the future. But the Owls didn’t bring in Peavey to sit. He physically resembles Jason Driskel, last year’s starter at FAU. If Peavey demonstrates a grasp of the offense similar to that of Driskel’s, he’ll be the FAU quarterback of the near future – as in the starter for the next couple of weeks.
As a bonus, with Lane Kiffin still dissatisfied by the wide receiver unit as a whole, the tight ends will have a big day, with either Harrison Bryant or John Raine – and maybe both – catching a touchdown pass.
WAJIH Al-BAROUDI: Wide receiver Jovon Durante hauls in 80-plus receiving yards and a touchdown.
Willie Wright, the Owls’ leading receiver from a season ago, faces a tough matchup this week in highly touted nickel cornerback Brendan Radley-Hiles. But outside of the promising freshman manning the slot, the Sooners don’t have much firepower elsewhere in their secondary.
That opens the door for a huge showing from Durante.
In a game expected to be fast-paced and arcade-like offensively, someone has to be the recipient of that increased pass game volume. There is a good chance that player is Durante, who has found success against Oklahoma in the past — scoring a touchdown in each of the two games he has played in against the Sooners while a West Virginia Mountaineer.
FAU Defense vs. Oklahoma
KING: FAU will find a way to pressure first-year starting quarterback Kyler Murray, and reserve linebacker Andrew Soroh will record the first sack of his career.
Soroh moved from safety to linebacker this offseason and has truly impressed with his pass-rushing skills. It’s Soroh’s senior season and he wants to prove against top competition that there’s a place for him at the next level. During the offseason Soroh dedicated himself to becoming a pass rusher and even though he’ll begin the season behind Rashad Smith on the depth chart, that dedication pays off on Saturday. Another non-starter, defensive end Kain Daub, also gets his first FAU sack.
AL-BAROUDI: FAU picks off Kyler Murray twice.
There is no questioning Murray’s athletic prowess, but the former five-star recruit has yet to prove he can consistently take care of the football. The dual-sport star tossed seven picks in eight appearances for Texas A&M in 2015, his instant-highlight ability both as a runner and a passer marred with inconsistencies.
Offenses tend to start slower than their defensive counterparts in the early portion of the season – that is especially the case for teams with turnover at the quarterback position like Oklahoma, which is moving forward without Baker Mayfield. Murray is an extremely talented player and will likely be in the Heisman conversation by season’s end, but it’s not out of the question for him to have some hiccups in his first significant start in Norman.
FAU Season Overall Prediction
KING: FAU will win 10 games this season and fans will somehow consider 2018 to be a disappointing season.
Kiffin spent the past couple weeks trying to temper expectations with regard to his football team. What Kiffin understands that other people seem intent on ignoring is that winning 11 games is difficult, and what the Owls achieved last season was remarkable. Entering 2018 the Owls have two new coordinators, no starting quarterback as of yet, and a lack of depth at many offensive positions.
With a 10-win season, the Owls will still claim the Conference USA title and play in a bowl game. FAU has never won 10 games in a season. It will be one of the best years in FAU history. And fans will still bemoan what they believe is an underachieving team. That is, of course, unless FAU beats Oklahoma…
AL-BAROUDI: The Owls finish undefeated in conference play for a second consecutive season.
After posting an absurd plus-201 point differential against Conference-USA teams last season, coach Lane Kiffin’s team – which remains largely intact from 2017 – could conceivably regress and still be capable of running through the meat of its schedule with relative ease.
The one game that could trouble FAU is a Thursday night showdown with last season’s conference runner-ups, North Texas. Logistics aren’t in the Owls’ favor in that Nov. 15 contest. They have only four days between games to prepare for the Denton road trip, and the kick-off is set for 8:30 p.m. local time – which would be 9:30 p.m. in Boca Raton. FAU doesn’t have a single other game on the schedule with a kick-off later than 7:30 p.m.