Location: Norfolk, Virginia, Foreman Field
Kick Off: 6:00 pm ET
Betting Line: FAU -3. O/U 58
Series History: Old Dominion leads the series 2-1 and won the last meeting in 2016 42-24
FAU Outlook - Cyrus Smith
Snapping the nine-game losing streak to Middle Tennessee has done wonders for the Owls from a confidence stand point. At 1-0 in conference play and 2-3 overall, there is a new sense of optimism that the second part of the schedule can result in a lot of wins for FAU.
The biggest reason for that optimism is the rushing attack. Devin Singletary has rushed for 492 yards and nine touchdowns this year. Gregory Howell has added 294 yards and one touchdown. The Owls are 4th in the country in Rushing Success Rate.
As long as Jason Driskel can stay away from turnovers the Owls should move the ball against and ODU defense that is dealing with a few injuries (though the bye week has certainly helped). Although the passing offense isn’t exactly what Lane Kiffin and Kendal Briles wants, it’s been efficient with the Driskel leading the way. Harrison Bryant had a breakout game against Middle Tennessee last week and could be a weapon again this week.
On the other side of the ball FAU has the opportunity to play another sub-par quarterback (at least for now) in Steven Williams. I liked what I saw from Williams against North Carolina but he could struggle here. FAU likes to play man-to-man defense and have been decent in that department.
The biggest matchup for the FAU defense will be Raekwon Williams against Travis Fulgham. Fulgham is ODU’s best receiver with Jonathan Duhart done for the year. If Williams can shut down Fulgham I like FAU’s chances. FAU must force the true freshman Steven Williams to beat them.
Old Dominion Outlook - Satchel Ziffer
The Monarchs got a much needed bye week last week after a rough two weeks playing two ACC schools (Virginia Tech and North Carolina). We learned a lot about ODU in those two weeks as a slew of injuries handicapped the team but created the outlet for freshman quarterback, Steven Williams, to emerge as THE quarterback. This week Florida Atlantic comes to town for the fourth meeting between the two schools, with the road team winning each contest. This game is extremely hard for me to cover as my final game as a Monarch was against FAU, a game we could have gotten to bowl eligibility, and it resulted in close FAU win.
As mentioned prior, the Monarchs have the injury bug thus far this season that has led to the Monarchs losing some of their veteran key-weapons. Ray Lawry (hamstring) and Jonathan Duhart (foot) were both All-CUSA picks this year and are apart of what Head Coach Bobby Wilder states as “the longest injury list” he has ever seen coaching. The other players out for the rest of the season include Kane Miskel (Safety), Justice Davila (Safety), Derek Wilder (Linebacker) and freshman Casey Perkins and Cameron Muller. This has led to slimmer numbers for the Monarchs and the philosophy for next man up must be imperative in the locker room and field, moving forward.
The good news for the Monarchs is that six players who have been injured in the span of the season and pre-season camp are expected to return, hopefully as soon as this week for some. This list includes defensive line standouts Bumni Rotimi and Daniel Appouh, offensive lineman Chad Hendricks and tight end Melvin Vaughn. Getting these guys back will help drastically as the o-line has been depleted and it has shown. The d-line will be back to full force and will be able to once again cause havoc for offenses the rest of the season.
Melvin Vaughn will most likely be the most important returner with the loss of Jonathan Duhart and a young quarterback entering conference play.
Florida Atlantic is coming to Norfolk after a good three-week stretch (minus the hiccup to Buffalo). They look like a very different team than they were at the start of the season. The key to stopping the running game; the Monarchs had done a great job against UMass and Albany before hiccuping against their two ACC opponents. This week will be a tell-all for the Monarchs as to how they are against teams at the same caliber.
David Singletary is a very talented runner and if he can get outside (which I expect FAU to game plan for) he could wreak havoc as that seems to be the major problem with the run defense. Another key will be how the secondary deals with the talented JUCO transfer wide receiver, DeAndre McNeal. Look for that to be a fun battle between him and Brandon Addison.
On Offense, with Jeremy Cox playing with a hip pointer, this will be an important game for Steven Williams to prove himself. After playing two ACC defenses, the schedule eases up and Williams should have more time in the pocket to find the open receiver. It will imperative for him to make smart throws as this Owl secondary is 20th in the nation with six interceptions on the year. I could see this being a big game for Isaiah Harper, the speedster we all remember so fondly for the 100-yard kickoff return against UNC. Isaiah has seen an increased presence in the throwing game since Duhart’s injury and is used often for short bubble screens and throws within ten yards that gives him the chance to create plays. He is very similar to Ty Lee from MTSU who, last week, has 8 catches for 136 yards. With Cox not at full-strength, look for Brandon Simmons to take a large portion of the carries but I doubt we’ll see many long runs as the Owls have gotten better each week on stopping the run. Simmons and Williams will be imperative though in the short-gain department and I could see them playing a similar role to the running back and QB for Buffalo, who rushed for three touchdowns.
Cyrus: I’m curious to see how well the defense performs Saturday night. It’s another ideal matchup as Steven Williams is a 17-year old quarterback. His mobility is what worries me. FAU didn’t play particularly well against Buffalo’s starting quarterback to begin the game and I’m worried we may see that performance magnified. Steven Williams is really capable of doing damage.
On paper FAU should win this game. But after their performance against Buffalo, I have no confidence in the Owls winning a game on the road in what’s one of the best atmospheres in C-USA. I’m picking an ODU win, 28-27.
Satchel: This will be a great game as FAU is coming in with momentum and the Monarchs will be starting the second half of their season after a bye week. Look for the Monarchs to come out excited and ready to play with (hopefully) some of the injured players returning and entering conference play. I think this whole game will come down to how Steven Williams plays, now that he doesn’t have to deal with as big a rush as he had to in his first start. He has all the ability in the world to throw beautiful balls and escape the pocket and run for large gains.
We’ll see if the FAU’s defense blitzes more than normal to disrupt Williams and force mistakes. I like the Owls and I think they are headed in the right direction entering conference play, however, I think ODU being at home and the week of rest will be the difference. Steven Williams’ ability to make plays will help ODU pull out the win, 31-21.