Who: Florida Atlantic Owls vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers
When: Saturday, August 30, 3:30 PM EST
Where: Lincoln, Nebraska
Television: Big Ten Network
Series: 2009: 49-3 Nebraska
The jerseys have been updated, the fields have been named and Boca is currently sitting at a balmy 97 degrees. The 2014 season is finally upon us!
In Week One, we see the Florida Atlantic Owls head up to Lincoln, to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers. What was once meant to be the first ever "Pelini Bowl", has simply evolved into FAU's first cash-grab road trip of the year. The match-up also marks the beginning of the Charlie Partridge era for the Owls and will see the first-time head coach travel back to Big Ten country after his previous stint with Wisconsin.
Although there will only be one Pelini on the sidelines, not all emotional significance has been displaced. Senior defensive lineman Brandin Bryant is actually from Omaha and some great literature on the meaning of this game for him can be found here, here and here.
If season openers of years past are any indication of how the Owls will perform on Saturday, expect a vanilla playbook with a dash of trickeration. FAU, under offensive coordinator Brian Wright, has typically kept the play-calling basic for the few first weeks of each season. Although, this time around, he does have an incumbent starter at his disposal in Jaquez Johnson. Jaquez will look to get the Owls going on the game and more detail on Johnson's skill set can be found here.
The Huskers, even with no insider info on FAU, will undoubtedly attempt to run all over the Owls. Between Tommy Armstrong Jr and Ameer Abdullah, Florida Atlantic's porous run defense should have their hands full. Cornerback D'Joun Smith experienced a breakthrough 2013 campaign, and with Armstrong's tendency to throw the ball to the other team, the Huskers should focus on a run-heavy plan against the boys from Boca.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
The junior quarterback is vital to FAU's success this season. A strong performance in the opening match-up should have the Owls trending upwards heading into Week Two.
The Nebraska native will not only be asked to play in front of his family and friends, but also slow down Ameer Abdullah and the Huskers potent run game.
The Owls will run a carousel of backs at the Huskers on Saturday. Tony Moore, Jay Warren and Martese Jackson will make up the three-headed dragon for Florida Atlantic.
This will be coach Partridge's first head coaching appearance. Will the former Wisconsin defensive line coach lead the Owls to an upset in Big Ten country?
With punter Sean Kelly off the team and uncertainty at kicker, the Owls will need to especially focus on special teams against the Huskers. A by-committee approach will be taken with the return game.
I like to believe that every game is important, especially for a first-year head coach. But, the season is a long and winding road and a loss in Week One against a solid Nebraska squad shouldn't serve as a precursor for conference play. The Owls will look to keep it respectable, but all signs point to Ameer Abdullah beginning his road to Heisman candidacy with a victorious performance in Lincoln.