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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 20, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Ladd Peebles Stadium (40,646) -- Mobile, Alabama. Television: None. Home Record: FAU 1-1, South Alabama 1-2. Away Record: FAU 0-4, South Alabama 0-3. Neutral Record: FAU 0-0, South Alabama 0-0. Conference Record: FAU 0-3, South Alabama 0-2. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: A pair of struggling Sun Belt Conference teams try to turn their seasons around on Saturday afternoon when the South Alabama Jaguars play host to the Florida Atlantic Owls.
After winning its season opener against FCS foe Wagner (7-3), FAU has dropped five straight games, with all but one of those losses coming by 14 or more points. Dating back to 2010, the Owls have lost 19 of their last 20 games against FBS opponents, with their only win in that stretch coming at home versus UAB, 38-35, on Nov. 26, 2011.
South Alabama's transition to the Sun Belt has been a rocky one to say the least. Like FAU, the Jaguars' only win came against an FCS team (9-3 over Nicholls State), but unlike the Owls they have played a handful of close games, including one-possession losses to Texas-San Antonio (33-31) and Arkansas State (36-29).
With this being South Alabama's first season as a member of the Sun Belt, Saturday's clash marks the first-ever meeting between these two schools on the football field.
Not surprisingly, FAU has one of the worst offenses in the nation, ranking 118th in total yards (286.5 ypg) and 119th in scoring (13.2 ppg), ranking only above Tulane in the latter category in the FBS.
Graham Wilbert has started five of six games under center and while he boasts a respectable completion percentage (.652), he has not recorded many big passing plays, averaging less than 168 yards per game while tossing six touchdowns against three interceptions. He has had difficulty staying upright as well, taking 18 sacks on the season, including five last week against ULM.
William Dukes has emerged as the Owls' top receiving threat with 23 catches for 320 yards, but he has yet to find the end zone. Byron Hankerson (15 catches, 209 yards) has caught two of Wilbert's six touchdowns.
Damian Fortner is the team's leading rushing with just 255 yards and two touchdowns on 70 carries. As a team, the Owls average just 3.2 yards per carry behind a poor offensive line.
With an offense that strikes little fear in its opponents, the defense (30.8 ppg) oftentimes suffers from being left with short fields or having to return too quickly after three-and-outs by the offense.
David Hinds leads the team with 50 tackles and also has two forced fumbles. FAU has only recorded five sacks and four interceptions through six games.
South Alabama's offense has been better than FAU's but not by much, scoring 13.4 ppg on 300 ypg.
C.J. Bennett started the first five games at quarterback but was largely ineffective, completing less than 55 percent of his passes for 543 yards, three touchdowns, and four interceptions. Ross Metheny got his first start of the season against Arkansas State last week and played well, going 24-of-38 for 241 yards with three touchdowns and an interception, and he is expected to be the starter moving forward.
The Jaguars have a glaring lack of playmakers at the skill positions. Demtetre Baker is the lead back, carrying the ball 67 times for 294 yards and a touchdown. Jereme Jones leads the receiving corps with a pair of touchdown catches, but no player has more than 160 yards receiving.
Considering the transition USA has made coming from the FCS to the FBS, the defense has played very well in the early going, allowing 25.6 ppg on 350.2 ypg.
Jake Johnson has recorded 51 tackles and has seven of the team's 40 tackles for loss. Alex Page has gotten good pressure on the quarterback with four sacks, and Tyrell Pearson has two interceptions and three pass break ups.
With two teams playing this poorly, it's bound to be an ugly game. And with next to no big-time playmakers on either sideline, defense and ball control will surely be the biggest concerns for both squads. With the home field advantage and the stronger defensive unit, USA gets the edge.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Alabama 16, Florida Atlantic 10
10/17 10:43:08 ET
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