2022 Florida Atlantic Owls Preview

by Matt Fargo

Florida Atlantic Owls

2021-22 Season Record 5-7 (3-5 C-USA East) - 4-7-1 ATS - 4-8-0 O/U

Returning Starters

Offense - 8
Defense - 7

Overview

After starting off 5-3 last season, a bowl berth was looking like a sure thing but Florida Atlantic could not close the deal as it lost its final four games, all by double-digits. Lane Kiffin had a successful run with the Owls as he won 11 games in two of his three seasons and after he headed to Mississippi, Willie Taggart took over in 2020 and has gone 10-11 including a 7-7 record in C-USA. The finish to last season was brutal as the offense could get nothing going as it scored 17 points or less in all four games and while Taggart is not yet on the hot seat, it will be warming up if it does not turn around this season. The Owls had the personnel in place as they had 10 starters back on each side of the ball and they are still in good shape with another veteran team coming back. The schedule sets up well for a quick start so they can put the disastrous November in the rear view mirror.

Offense

The running game fell apart at the end of last season as the Owls averaged 77 ypg on the ground over the last three games and that put a ton of pressure on quarterback N'Kosi Perry who could not make the plays when needed. He was solid overall last season as he threw for 2,771 yards with 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions and is poised to be even better in his second season in the system. He has a lot to work with because his two top receivers are back as LaJohntay Wester and Je'Quan Burton combined for 1,185 yards and seven touchdowns and the only issue is depth following those two. Perry will be working behind an offensive line that is experienced and deep with four starters returning which will help the protection after allowing 35 sacks last season, tied for 109th most in the nation. Johnny Ford returns at running back after averaging 6.3 ypc.

Defense

The defense comes back with a lot of experience as well with seven starters back but three of the top four tacklers are gone. The Owls were ranked No. 88 in total defense last season and like the offense, it collapsed toward the end of the season. The front seven is loaded with four starters and a couple transfers looking to improve in both areas, especially with the pass rush. Florida Atlantic had only 16 sacks last year which was tied for No. 118 in the country and it needs to get a bigger push into the backfield as it has the size and strength to do so. The defense allowed 846 rushing yards against Florida and Air Force and only 1,038 against everyone else. The linebacking corps returns two starters and a pair of SEC transfers makes this a deep rotation that will improve the numbers from last year. The secondary is young and could take some time to come together.

2022 Season Outlook

The move to C-USA has had its ups and downs as the Owls were 18-6 under Kiffin but have gone 18-28 in the other seven seasons and with the talent that has come through Boca Raton, this should be a lot better. The conference lost three teams to the Sun Belt so it is more wide open and the Owls have to take advantage with their talent and experience. They open the season with a conference home game against Charlotte before heading to Ohio and then back home for a game against SE Louisiana and there is no reason for them to not start 3-0. The remainder of the conference slate is not easy by any stretch but they do get the three toughest opponents at home against UCF, UAB and Western Kentucky and the only big road test is at North Texas. The O/U win total is 5.5 and the Owls should be able to surpass that as long as they do not have another epic collapse. 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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