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FAU football: What is this year's must win game of the 2016 season?

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Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Every team has a "must-win game." Sometimes its a rivalry game, sometimes its a division foe or maybe even a non-conference opponent. No matter the case, every team has a game that they absolutely must win in order to accomplish their goals.

For FAU this year's goal is simple: Play 13. Make it to a bowl game. Here are three options that qualify as a must-win game for this year.

Sept. 24 - vs. Ball State

A MAC team visiting FAU Stadium is not going to move the needle for many FAU fans but rest assured this is a game FAU absolutely must have as they are without question the more talented team.

The Cardinals went 3-9 last year and will have a new head coach this season in Mike Neu. Any of this sound familiar? Last year, FAU welcomed another MAC team with a new head coach into FAU Stadium, the Buffalo Bulls.

The Owls lost to Buffalo 33-15 thanks to five turnovers and a safety which all but ended any aspirations of a bowl game.

This contest is a tone setter for the 2016 season as it also presents an opportunity for Charlie Partridge and the coaching staff to prove that the football program is turning the corner.

With the Owls expected to enter this contest 1-2 after back-to-back P5 games against Miami and Kansas State, a 1-3 start entering conference play would put FAU right behind the eight-ball for bowl eligibility.

To put it simply, FAU can't lose this game.

Oct. 1 - At FIU

Ah yes, the Shula Bowl. This year's contest will be the conference opener for both teams and as always will be a hotly contested game (CUSA schedule makers, if you can't give us the Shula Bowl as the regular season finale, then keep it as the conference opener please).

While beating Ball State the week before will ease any concerns of the coaching staff not getting the most out of their players, a loss against FIU to start conference play would be devastating. With next week's game being against Charlotte, FAU has a prime opportunity to start conference play 2-0 with a 4-2 record before traveling to Huntington to take on Marshall.

As always, FIU is a wild card. The talent is there and with it being a home game the Panthers should not be taken lightly. With that said this is a game FAU should be favorited in (S&P gives FAU a 53% chance of coming away with a win).

Win this game and FAU drastically improves their chances of going to a bowl game as well as entering uncharted territory, a legit chance of winning CUSA East.

Nov. 26 - At Middle Tennessee State

FAU has lost eight straight games to MTSU. EIGHT! Five of those loses have been by seven points or less. The fact that the MTSU football program has been your run-of-the-mill G5 team has made the losing streak even more frustrating.

Now, the Blue Raiders appear to be hitting their stride under Rick Stockstill as sophomores Brent Stockstill and Richie James are the faces of what should be a potent offense. In CUSA East there has been a clear hierarchy established and in order for FAU to reach the top they must first get by the media darlings in Murfreesboro.

This year has the potential to be the best MTSU team FAU has faced during the losing streak and with potential ramifications of a bowl bid or an East division on the line, snapping the streak would be glorious.

Verdict

With the amount of soul-crushing losses the football program has experienced over the past few years I want FAU to have the utmost confidence entering conference play and a loss to Ball State prevents that.

While attending FAU's lost to Buffalo last year there was the all-too familiar feeling in the air of here we go again. Another losing season.

At worst, a win against Ball State gives FAU a 2-2 record entering conference play with a chance for a magical season in Boca Raton.