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2019 Boca Raton Bowl Preview: FAU vs SMU

Can FAU’s offense without Lane Kiffin keep up with SMU’s potent air raid offense?

NCAA Football: East Carolina at Southern Methodist Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Location: FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, Florida

Date: Saturday December 21st

Time: 3:30 PM ET

TV/Stream: ABC

Records: FAU (10-3), SMU (10-2)

Spread: SMU -3

Over/Under: 69,5

All-Time Series: First ever meeting

Boca Bowl Outlook

For the second time in three years, FAU will end their Conference USA Championship season with a home game in the Boca Raton Bowl. Unlike the 2017 season, FAU will enter this one without head coach Lane Kiffin, and will play a much better team in the SMU Mustangs from the American Athletic Conference.

Sonny Dykes’ air raid offense is one of the best units in the nation as the ponies are averaging 43 points and 495 total yards per game. They are eerily similar to UCF in how they execute their spread offense, albeit they don’t use tempo as much as the Knights do.

You’ll recall that in FAU’s 48-14 home loss to UCF earlier this season, the Owls just could not stop UCF’s rushing attack. SMU RB Xavier Jones is just as capable of replicating that production. Jones has rushed for 1,249 yards and 21 touchdowns this year with 5.4 yards per carry.

As is the case with just about every air raid offense, SMU QB Shane Buechele is a proficient passer who stays away from turnovers. Buechele has passed for 3,626 yards, 33 TDs, and 9 INTs on the season.

This is by far the best offense FAU has played against since the UCF game. Interim head coach Glenn Spencer did a great job with this year’s defensive unit. As the season progressed, FAU played with so much more confidence and energy on that side of the ball. The Owls lead the country with 21 interceptions so the secondary should be more than up for the challenge of stopping an air raid offense. Zyon Gilbert, James Pierre, Ahman Ross, Chris Tooley, and of course the team-leader with 9 INTs, Meiko Dotson, will have another chance to redeem themselves from the UCF game against another top-shelf offense.

With Lane Kiffin’s departure, there’s a huge question mark on offense as FAU fans will really get to see just how capable Charlie Weis Jr. is as a play-caller. The Chris Robison-to-Harrison Bryant connection must click early for the Owls to keep up in a potential shootout. While the passing game will certainly be a factor, we could see a lot of BJ Emmons on the ground in hopes of keeping SMU’s offense off the field. In his last three games, Emmons has only rushed for 164 yards but he scored 5 TDs and looked to be the more dangerous player out of FAU’s RBs.


I really don’t like this matchup for FAU. Against C-USA opponents the Owls are usually the faster team. SMU is just like UCF in that their athletes are at the least equal, if not better than what the Owls possess. Throw in the coaching turnover and SMU has an advantage in just about every facet of the game.

While a lot of the talk will center around SMU’s wide receivers against FAU’s defensive backs, the game will be won by the team who runs the ball better. SMU allows 153.8 yards per game while FAU allows 136.7 yards per game. I think both defenses will take their chances with either QB trying to win the game.

Last time SMU was in a bowl game they got throttled by Louisiana Tech. It was Sonny Dykes’ first game as SMU’s head coach. I believe Dykes will be plenty motivated to make sure that outcome doesn’t happen again. Unless the city of Boca Raton rallies to support the hometown team and create a good home-field advantage for FAU, I think SMU wins this one pretty comfortably.

SMU 45 FAU 28