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Previewing Florida Atlantic at South Carolina: FAU's Offense

Florida Atlantic runs a pro-style offense that favors the pass. The Owls--who as most of you probably know are coached by legend Howard Schnellenberger--have generally had pretty good offenses over the past few years. In their opening matchup against Nebraska, in some ways they continued to do well, despite losing 49-3, largely due to the three turnovers they gave up. The Owls rolled up 358 total yards, seemingly not too bad against Bo Pelini's Cornhuskers. Most came in the air, although the Owls did decently on the ground, as well.

However, a closer look at the game reveals that the numbers are a little deceptive. The key is that the Owls controlled time of possession. Usually that's a good thing. In this case, though, it was probably at least partially because Nebraska had little trouble scoring quickly; the Huskers averaged over 9 yards per pass and a stunning 8.1 yards per carry. That means that FAU was frequently getting the ball back after quick Nebraska touchdowns. This isn't to say that FAU didn't move the ball; the Owls were able to sustain some drives, averaging a respectable 5.8 yards per pass and 3.5 yards per carry. Those drives, though, typically stalled at some point or resulted in turnovers, leading to only three polnts. Overall, I would say the performance against Nebraska is about what you would expect from a good mid-major offense going against a good Big 12 team. It wasn't, however, as good as the 358 yards would suggest.

Continue reading after the jump.

As said, this is a team that we can expect to see pass the ball quite a bit and fairly well. FAU quarterback Rusty Smith has thrown for over 8000 career yards and is considered a viable NFL prospect. However, the problem for a team like FAU going against a Nebraska or a South Carolina is always going to be in the trenches, and that will end up hampering Smith's ability to control the game in the same way he would against another mid-major. First of all, running the ball is going to be difficult for an FAU in this situation, as a big defensive front will be able to manhandle the Owls' offensive line. That's going to make it difficult for FAU to make us respect the run, thus keeping FAU from opening things up. Second of all, Smith is going to be running for his life in the likelihood that his protection frequently breaks down. That's going to lead to hurries, sacks, and turnovers, all of which hurt FAU against Nebraska.

The only thing that worries me about our offense versus FAU's defense in this game is that we will be missing both Nathan Pepper and Ladi Ajiboye, which potentially negates some of our advantage in the trenches. Travian Robertson has played well in Ajiboye's stead, and will likely continue to play a prominent role in the rotation after Ajiboye returns. Melvin Ingram, though, is still a little green. If FAU can take advantage of Pepper and Ajiboye's absence, they may be able to open things up a bit and score some points.

That said, while Robertson and Ingram may not be quite ready to carry us through the SEC alone, they should be able to hold their own against FAU. Plus, FAU is probably going to throw all sorts of double teams against Eric Norwood, Devin Taylor, Clifton Geathers, and Cliff Matthews. If our coaching staff can take advatage of those situations, we should be able to figure out a way to slow these guys down, just like Nebraska did.