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Florida Atlantic Football Preview
by Matt Fargo - 08/20/2008
No. 82 Florida Atlantic Owls
2007 Record ~ 8-5 SU ~ 8-5 ATS
Starters Returning ~ Offense (9) Defense (8)
It only took seven years, including four in 1-A, for Florida Atlantic to make it to its first bowl game. Last season was the most successful in program history as the Owls went 8-5, including a victory over Big Ten Minnesota and then dismantling Memphis in the New Orleans Bowl. Head coach Howard Schnellenberger has been there the whole way and it shows how good of a coach he is. Florida Atlantic is far from satisfied as this is expected to be the best team ever put on the field in Boca Raton.
The offense improved immensely as the season went along last year. After averaging 24.2 ppg in its first six games, Florida Atlantic averaged 37.1 ppg in its final seven games. Granted, the opposition thinned down but that is a great thing to carry over into 2008. Led by quarterback Rusty Smith, the Sun Belt Player of the Year, the offense is going to flourish again as he has eight players returning with him. The running game is solid and the offensive line was 13th in the nation in sacks allowed.
If Florida Atlantic really wants to be a dominant team and scare the out of conference teams, the defense needs to improve. The unit finished 99th in points allowed and 82nd overall although it did finish 3rd in both of those categories in SBC games only. Still, a lot of points were allowed and while the offense is going to be potent, the defense will have to do its share. One thing successful last season was the ability to take away the ball as the Owls ended up 3rd in the country in turnover margin. They need that again.
The non-conference portion of the schedule is a tough one for the Owls. They get UAB at home but the other three games are on the road at Texas, Michigan St. and a revenge-minded Minnesota team. Florida Atlantic should have no problem getting through the conference schedule with the biggest test being against Troy but that game is at home. The Owls went 5-2 ATS in the conference last season but this year the lines are not going to be as favorable so we may want to look at the other side in some cases down the road.