The preseason AP writers’ poll, released on Monday, did not include the Owls among the rankings of the Top 25 teams in the nation, but FAU did receive 38 votes, which places the Owls at No. 30 in the rankings.
FAU rides a 10-game winning streak into its Sept. 1 opener at No. 7 Oklahoma. The Owls received votes at the end of last season and in the USA Today preseason coaches’ poll announced a couple weeks ago, but have never actually cracked the Top 25. Central Florida, ranked No. 21, is the only other ranked team on FAU’s 2018 schedule.
Florida Atlantic, the reigning Conference USA champion and the conference’s preseason pick to repeat, is the long C-USA team to receive Top 25 votes.
The 2018 Owls have the loftiest expectations of any FAU team, but that doesn’t mean the Owls don’t have questions to answer – the biggest of which is the starting quarterback.
With less than two weeks remaining until the opener, FAU has yet to select its signal caller. In fact, the situation has only grown cloudier since the start of fall camp with the addition of graduate transfer Rafe Peavey two weeks ago.
All three are splitting snaps in practice and coach Lane Kiffin has yet to set a timetable for making his choice.
The Owls are also replacing all three interior offensive linemen this fall, but with graduate transfers Antonio Riles at right guard and Junior Diaz at center, along with redshirt freshman B. J. Etienne at left guard, FAU’s front five has been relatively stable throughout camp.
Of course, the Owls do return running back Devin Singletary, a darkhorse Heisman Trophy candidate who rushed for 1,920 yards and 32 touchdowns last season. Only two players in the history of college football ever rushed for more scores in a season.
FAU did lose Singletary’s backup, Buddy Howell, to the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, but players raved about the performance of Kerrith Whyte in Saturday’s scrimmage. More of a third down back last season, Whyte added 12 pounds of muscle during the offseason in hopes of carrying a larger load for the Owls.
Despite having Kiffin, an offensive guru, running the show, the Owls may be better known for their attacking defense this season – at least when the season starts.
FAU returns 10 starters from last year’s squad and the defensive depth on the squad has never been greater.
Senior linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, Conference USA’s preseason Defensive Player of the Year and the NCAA’s third-leading tackler last season, leads that unit. Senior safety Jalen Young, who tied for second in the nation last year with seven interceptions, captains the secondary.
The Owls defeated Akron 50-3 in the Boca Raton Bowl last season and are looking for their first back-to-back bowl seasons since 2006-07.