Florida Atlantic (2-7) at Western Kentucky (6-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Nov. 10, 1 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: L.T. Smith Stadium (22,113) -- Bowling Green, Kentucky. Television: Sun Belt Network, CSS. Home Record: FAU 2-1, WKU 2-2. Away Record: FAU 0-6, WKU 4-1. Neutral Record: FAU 0-0, WKU 0-1. Conference Record: FAU 1-4, WKU 3-1 Series Record: FAU leads 3-1.
GAME NOTES: A couple of close losses in the last few weeks have taken some of Western Kentucky's momentum, a trend the Hilltoppers will try to reverse against a struggling Sun Belt Conference foe in Florida Atlantic on Saturday.
It has been a rough few seasons for FAU and things haven't changed much in 2012. Although the Owls have doubled their win total from last season there isn't a whole lot to celebrate. The Owls did finally get a win against an FBS opponent two weeks ago with a 34-27 win at home over Troy, but fell right back into the loss column with a 24-17 setback to Navy on the road this past weekend. The Owls are now just 2-7 this season and 1-4 in Sun Belt play, putting them in a tie with South Alabama for second to last in the conference,
The Hilltoppers can still hold out hope of a Sun Belt Conference title, sitting a game back of first place (which is currently in a three-way tie between Arkansas State, ULM and Middle Tennessee). The Hilltoppers' 6-3 mark is also tied for the best overall record in the conference. However stopping the current losing trend the Hilltoppers have been on will be imperative. WKU can't feel too bad though, as the two losses in these past three games have come by a combined six points.
Western Kentucky finally got a win against FAU last season with a 20-0 shutout. Before that FAU had posted three straight victories in the series.
The Owls have been the worst team in the Sun Belt in moving the ball this season, posting only 324.9 yards per game. In fact the Owls are the only team in the conference that has yet to reach the 3,000-yard mark in total offense. Not surprisingly that has meant that the Owls have not been lighting up the scoreboard with any regularity, sporting a league-low 18.2 ppg.
The team's best offensive weapon has been wide receiver William Dukes. The sophomore wideout has accumulated 555 yards on 39 receptions, while also finding the end zone twice.
At quarterback Graham Wilbert has been very effective at completing passes (66.1 percent), but that hasn't equated to huge yardage totals. Much of that has to do with the fact that Wilbert rarely completes passes down field. He averages only 6.3 yards per attempt which is the second lowest mark in the conference among quarterbacks with at least 180 pass attempts. On the whole, he has thrown for 1,775, while his touchdown to turnover ratio (12-to-3) is solid.
Giving up points, not yards has been FAU's biggest issue on defense. Although the Owls rank fifth in the Sun Belt in yards allowed (410.8 ypg) the team has not been able to equate that to as solid a scoring defense. FAU gives up 30.3 points per game to its opponents which is worse than only last place FIU.
FAU has not had an issue in getting tackles with teams constantly on the move. Three different players have more than 60 stops this season, led by Brent Harstad (80). That is good enough for the sixth-best mark in the Sun Belt. David Hinds (72) and Adarius Glanton (64) have also been consistent tacklers.
While it can't boast a stellar offense, WKU can take solace in the fact that it has been a more successful offensive unit than the Owls. The Hilltoppers are picking up 401.8 yards and 29.4 points per game, which are in the middle in comparison to the rest of the Sun Belt.
Guiding the offense this season has been Kawaun Jakes under center. Jakes is coming off one of his best games of the season when he threw for 283 yards and three scores in the loss to Middle Tennessee. Jakes has been very good at completing passes efficiently (68.8 percent) and has made sure to limit his interceptions (6), while making good decisions in scoring situations with 18 touchdown passes.
It helps that Jakes has a solid back to hand the ball off to in Antonio Andrews. The offense really runs through Andrews who has rushed for 1,053 yards and seven touchdowns on 190 carries. In fact WKU is a team that has relied much more heavily on the run this season with 358 rushing attempts to only 237 through the air. Andrews is the only rusher in the conference to have eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark as well as the only back to average more than 100 yards rushing per game.
Andrew doesn't just lend himself to the running game with the junior running back also showing how dynamic he can be with 28 receptions for 314 yards and two scores this season. Other playmakers in the passing game include Jack Doyle (40 receptions, 419 yards, 3 TDs) and Willie McNeal (30 receptions, 425 yards, 5 TDs).
Where WKU can boast a significant advantage over FAU is on defense. The Hilltoppers have been impressive this season not just in the Sun Belt, but nationally as well. The Hilltoppers are ranked 21st among FBS schools in total defense (321.9 ypg) and are one of just 23 teams to give up less than 325 yards of offense per game. Needless to say WKU has also not been giving up much in terms of points with the Sun Belt's top scoring defense (23.9 ppg).
Anchoring the unit from the front line is Quanterus Smith who has 14.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 of which have been sacks. Andrew Jackson (78 tackles, 10.0 tackles for loss) has also been a force up front and is the team's leading tackler. Jonathan Dowling has been able to make plays on the ball all season and has snagged five interceptions already.
There isn't much evidence that points towards a win for FAU. The Hilltoppers have a much better offense centered on Andrews, while there is an even wider gap between these two squads on defense.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Kentucky 30, Florida Atlantic 10
11/07 10:40:40 ET