In their opener against Nebraska, Florida Atlantic had a less-than-stellar defensive showing. The Owls gave up 49 points and 490 total yards, with a fair balance between what they gave up on the ground and in the air. The 'Huskers averaged close to a first down per play, including an astounding 8.1 yards per carry. This came against a Nebraska offense that is certainly capable but that probably won't rewrite the record books.
The ways the Owls failed against the 'Huskers are both what you would expect from FAU as well as what you would expect from a mid-major going up against a good BCS-level foe. The story for FAU last year was a decent passing defense and a poor run defense and pass rush. It's also the case that mid-major teams have trouble in the trenches against BCS foes, leading to poor showings against the run and rushing the passer. This led to a perfect storm against Nebraska, which was able to make huge gains on the ground, including TD runs of 28 and 44 yards. Moreover, the lack of a pass rush undoubtedly led to a better-than-average passing game for the 'Huskers, despite the fact that FAU has a good, experienced secondary that is manned by South Florida athletes that could probably get playing time at many BCS schools.
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We should be able to exploit many of the same weaknesses that the Owls showed against Nebraska. While our running game is at very best comparable with Nebraska's and perhaps a bit worse, our line shouldn't have trouble pushing around FAU's defensive front and our backs should be able to get into the open field and in position to break long runs. This simply isn't Georgia's defensive front that we're confronting this weekend, and it will show. I'm especially interested to see if Jarvis Giles or Bryce Sherman get a chance to make a long run to the house.
It will be interesting to see what we do in the passing game. Conventional wisdom says that in a game like this you play conservatively and allow your ground game and short passing game to wear out the opposing defense and avoid committing the kinds of costly turnovers that are a team like FAU's principle hope to win a game like this. However, at the same time you have to think that Steve Spurrier wants to test Stephen Garcia's arm and try to establish the kind of vertical passing game that we will need to upset Ole Miss next Thursday. Garcia needs more game-time practice trying to hook up with Tori Gurley and others on long passes, and this is a game where we can do that. The worry, of course, is that Garcia will implode and commit turnovers, allowing FAU to stay in or even win the game. (And this team is definitely capable of beating us if we give them a chance; their offense is for real and will move the ball.) However, after the last two games, I believe that Garcia, despite failing to really move the ball vertically, has proven that he can minimize mistakes. Spurrier needs to put confidence in him and let him continue to mature. He's shown nothing but improvement since the spring. All of this is to say that while I definitely think we'll se Spurrier exploit FAU's rushing and short-passing defense, I do think we'll see him give Garcia the chance to make a few big throws.
In sum, while FAU's offense is capable of moving the ball against us, we're going to be able to score a lot of points agianst the Owls unless we implode. That's why it's going to be very difficult for FAU to win this game.