BOCA RATON – On the one hand, predicting upcoming events in 2020 seems especially foolish – something akin to predicting which blade of grass will be the next to be struck by lightning.
On the other hand, the possibilities are endless.
If someone said dinosaurs would return in time for Thanksgiving dinner could they be thoroughly dismissed? Seems like it could be a 50/50 chance, and about 10 percent of the people would argue that such a timeline is ridiculous because dinosaurs will, in fact, most certainly be here for Halloween. Wouldn’t that spice up trick-or-treating…
With FAU’s first game only days away, and so many schools opting out of the season and the playoff structure still up for debate, it’s not completely impossible to create a scenario where FAU reaches some sort of NCAA playoff.
With COVID-19 still wreaking havoc across the country, it’s also entirely possible that FAU doesn’t play a single game.
Keeping 2020’s innate volatility in mind, here are the official OwlAccess.com 11 predictions for the season – dinosaurs be damned.
1. QB Mayhem: On Monday first year coach Willie Taggart named Nick Tronti the Owls’ starting quarterback. The decision wasn’t surprising. Tronti played effectively in small sample sizes last season backing up Chris Robison. In this year of madness, however, does anyone really expect FAU to use only one starting QB? Of course not. Who ultimately finishes the season as the starting QB? With his leadership ability and experience, Justin Agner somewhat mimics the Jason Driskel mold. But our bet is Javion Posey ends the season as FAU’s starting QB.
2. Tough Start: FAU will lose its season opener to Georgia Southern. A week ago this seemed like an obvious pick. Then Georgia Southern lost 33 players, and it appeared as though FAU might be gifted a win. Then FAU lost a slew of players on its own, so the COVID pendulum swung back to favor the Eagles. The triple option’s relative scarcity and the way it forces defenses to play outside their comfort zones make it extremely difficult – and annoying – to defend. FAU didn’t have spring football to implement Jim Leavitt’s completely new defensive scheme. The Owls were without 11 of their top 13 tacklers from last season before the recent COVID outbreak. Now sources tell OwlAccess.com that half of the defensive starters were among the positive tests. Of course, given the current state of COVID-19 at Georgia Southern and FAU, officials at either school have reason to cancel this game – which they should do. FAU fans shouldn’t worry too much about Saturday’s outcome. A loss doesn’t doom FAU’s season. More on that below.
3. What’s Old is New Again: The 2020 season will be a throwback for FAU, which is celebrating its 20th season of football. The Owls will debut new uniforms this season that give a nod to the look of their 2006-07 bowl teams. Blue returns, replacing red, as the dominant color. The white helmets have a clean look with the FAU logo on it. (By the way, when this actually comes to fruition, watch for other so-called “news” organizations to state publicly that they knew this was coming but didn’t want to tell you.)
4. No Small Impact: LaJohntay Wester is the 2020 version of Willie Wright circa 2017. As a true freshman that year, Wright had 56 catches for 657 yards, rushed for 139 yards and scored a combined seven TDs. Listed at 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds Wester, a barely recruited walk-on out of Palmetto, makes a similar impact as a true freshman this season. He’s drawn raves throughout camp. Bonus prediction: Wright never does return to that 2017 production level.
5. Sack Surprises: A running back during his first three seasons, Tyrek Tisdale will lead FAU in sacks this season. A special teams star in 2019, Tisdale left a crowded running back room to play defense this season, The speedster added bulk without losing explosiveness. He’s playing outside linebacker and should only get better as the season progresses.
6. The Good COVID: Some of football’s COVID-induced changes don’t particularly hurt FAU, and may in fact help. Playing in front of empty seats at Howard Schnellenberger Field doesn’t phase the Owls. Considering FAU officials often tout half-sell outs as good crowds, returning players have already embraced the emptiness. It’s kind of a Zen thing. Limiting admission to games actually benefits FAU during road games when they don’t have to worry about crowd noise. As a result, FAU performs well on the road this season – an experience that should pay dividends in the years that follow.
7. Gone for Good: Players who opted out of this season citing COVID-19 never don an FAU uniform again. No inside information here. Simply making an educated prognostication. Several of those players didn’t have a clear path to playing time before the pandemic. They can now transfer without sitting out a year. Others will likely test their ability to play at a Power 5 school.
8. Improving D: FAU’s defense improves significantly as the season progresses and by the end of the season the Owls boast one of the best units in Conference USA. What FAU lacks in experience on the defense the Owls make up for with talent and coaching. FAU is loaded with young athletes and coordinator Jim Leavitt is a proven defensive mind. It simply takes time for the unit to jell.
9. You Better Run: Looking for a wide open offense out of Willie Taggart’s Owls? Don’t bet on it – at least not this year. The Owls have a new quarterback, significant turnover at wide receiver, tight end and along the offensive line. But, oh, are they loaded at running back. B.J. Emmons, Malcolm Davidson, Larry McCammon and James Charles all earn significant playing time and average better than 3.5 yards per carry this season.
10. Winning Ways: FAU doesn’t repeat as Conference USA champions, but the Owls do win more games than they lose, making them eligible for a bowl game. Of course there’s no guarantee bowl games will be played so it could be a bit of a hollow feeling, but the Owls do enter the offseason with a positive feeling of accomplishment. FAU has too many athletes for opponents to overcome and Taggart has shown he can win consistently at this level.
11. Worst Conference: The level of football played within Conference USA continues to deteriorate to the point where the Sun Belt is widely viewed as the better football conference. With the MAC and Mountain West not playing football this year, that easily renders C-USA as the worst FBS level conference. And C-USA can’t even take solace in having the first overall pick next season, which is disappointing because some of those dinosaurs would come in handing in the trenches.