Date: Saturday November 11, 2017
Kickoff Time: 2:30 PM CT
Location: Ruston, LA
Stadium: Joe Aillet Stadium
Streaming: Stadium, Twitter
Series Record: First Meeting
Betting Line: Florida Atlantic -6.0
Veterans’ Day 2017 will feature the first ever meeting between the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs and Florida Atlantic Owls in football, despite this being their fifth year sharing a conference. It will be military appreciation day for La Tech, and they will certainly have a fight on their hands against the Owls.
FAU is 6-3 with a 5-0 conference record under first-year head coach Lane Kiffin. They have already beaten all of the perennial contenders we’re used to seeing from the east and now have their attention set on the team that normally leads the west.
But while FAU is in the midst of a season unlike any they’ve seen since 2007-08, Tech is experiencing a season of frustration. The Dawgs are 4-5 with a 2-3 conference record and are just hoping they can find the wins to extend their bowl streak to four straight years. Tech has been favored in each of their last five games, but lost three of them. Now, they are underdogs for the first time since September. Can they pull off the upset?
Florida Atlantic Overview
For all the pub Lane Kiffin entered Boca Raton with, he’s more than lived up to the hype. From bringing in the best recruiting class in Conference USA with just months on the job, to dominating C-USA on the field, FAU has realized their potential in just a short amount of time with Kiffin at the helm.
While Kiffin and the new coaching staff will get a lot of credit for this year’s success, the coaching staff didn’t inherit a bunch of two-star recruits. The previous coaching staff recruited South Florida really well and we are seeing those highly touted prospects finally play to their potential.
Sophomore Devin Singletary (former Illinois commit) is a lock to take home some hardware at season’s end as he’s rushed for 1,256 and 19 touchdowns so far this year. Junior Jalen Young (who was offered by a few ACC schools) leads the Owls in interceptions with five. Right behind him is Chris Tooley (not one of the highly touted prospects), who has four interceptions.
The biggest difference between the 2016 team and the 2017 team is that the Owls have adopted Lane Kiffin’s personality and expect to win. The weaknesses that faced the 2016 team are still there for the most part though. Jason Driskel is still a below average passer, with 1,003 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions.
The run defense is still suspect, though the Owls have played much tougher against the run during conference play, allowing 148.2 yards per game on the ground in five games.
With just three games left in the season and FAU in the driver’s seat to win C-USA East, the Owls are in unchartered territory. With the Shula Bowl next week this is a definite trap game. Given their inexperience of playing as the hunted rather than the hunter, we’ll see how they react.
Louisiana Tech Overview
The theme of 2017 for La Tech has been close games, particularly ones they have lost. The Dawgs are 1-4 in one-possession games this season, and their other three wins were all close late, closer than they probably should have been. However, these close games have an interesting theme. In all four of Tech’s one-possession losses, Tech was favored by Vegas. Their lone close win (at WKU) came with Tech as the underdog. In fact, that game was the last conference game Tech has played as the underdog, and was against an east division team. Now, Tech is an underdog against an east division team yet again. Can lightning strike twice?
The key for Tech to pull off the upset is simple, but easier said than done. Stop the Motor. Devin Singletary is fifth in the nation in rushing yards. In fact, FAU has the best rushing attack in C-USA with roughly 700 yards separating them from second place UAB.
Unfortunately for Tech, the Dawgs have the 86th rushing defense in the nation, 9th in C-USA. The Tech defense is second best in C-USA at interceptions (behind FAU), but FAU has little reason to throw the ball considering they are only 10th in C-USA in that statistic.
On the other side of the ball, FAU isn’t particularly good at stopping the run either (94th nationally, 11th C-USA). Jarred Craft and Boston Scott could have solid games. In pass defense, Tech is 71st nationally while FAU is 80th. If J’Mar Smith can play well, they should be able to move the ball. But that’s a big if.
If this game does end up being close, head coach Skip Holtz has to be aggressive. Kicking a field goal on 4th & 2 with only a three point lead late in the fourth isn’t going to cut it. Tech HAS to score touchdowns. With the Bulldogs needing to win two of their final three to make a bowl game, playing not to lose will be about as effective as a prevent defense.
Tanner Spearman: FAU has been unstoppable since conference play began. Tech hasn’t been able to finish. Tech is six points away from being 7-2, 4-1. They’re an onside kick recovery from being 8-1, 5-0. Because of this, although it feels like this game probably shouldn’t be close, Tech might be able to keep it close. But can they win? I’ll believe it when I see it. Florida Atlantic 42 Louisiana Tech 28
Cyrus Smith: Entering the season I thought this game would be a definite loss. Even at the beginning of conference play I figured FAU would stumble in Ruston. On paper this should be a relatively easy win. Tech is coming off of yet another deflating loss. J’Mar Smith hasn’t nearly lived up to his preseason hype. FAU should be able to move the ball with relative ease on the ground. But I just have a bad feeling that the Owls are going to be looking ahead for the FIU game. Over the past few weeks the Owls haven’t looked that crisp either. Tech takes advantage of a few turnovers and sneaks by the Owls on late field goal. Louisiana Tech 34 FAU 31