- UPDATE: Per Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated, the game has been cancelled.
Source: FAU won’t play Georgia Southern in football this weekend. FAU had an outbreak early in the week and received more positive tests this am. FAU had an entire position group that wasn’t available. The game was scheduled for ESPN on Saturday.— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) September 18, 2020
Start Time: 3:30 p.m. EST, Sept. 19
Location: Allen E. Paulson Stadium; Statesboro, GA
Weather: 68 degrees at kickoff, 14 mph winds
Betting Line: FAU -3
Georgia Southern Outlook
Barely squeaking by FCS Campbell in its season opener, Georgia Southern will look to play better football this weekend when the Eagles welcome Florida Atlantic to town in a nationally televised match-up on ESPN.
Based on reports from the program, it seems as if some of the 33 players who sat last week due to various issues will return for this one. Which ones? Who knows. Southern waited until about 3 hours before game time last Saturday to announce that a third of the roster and 8 starters were out for the opener.
With that said, I will go through the players I expect to suit up for Saturday’s contest because speculating at this point seems like an exercise in futility. Shai Werts and J.D. King each showed up to play in the team’s 1-point victory, and the two ball carriers will be absolutely crucial if the Eagles want a chance to win this one.
It would be nice for Wesley Kennedy III to return in this one and give the team a spark, but it’s impossible to tell who is suspended and who was ruled out due to COVID/contact tracing.
The play calling on offense has to improve as well. Early in the game, Bob DeBesse was doing a good job of mixing up some quick passes and the option to keep the Camels off guard. As soon as Southern got down on the scoreboard, Werts was letting it rip down the field to second and third string receivers for incompletions that stalled drives. That is not where GS thrives.
Defensively, the Eagles looked lost in the first half of last week’s contest. There were a number of defensive players out for Southern but it seemed like more of a coaching issue than the talent simply not being there. Too frequently there were poorly timed blitz attempts and guys in the secondary were getting burned deep frequently until Campbell took its foot off of the gas with its offensive approach.
Florida Atlantic Outlook
New head coach Willie Taggart will take the reigns of the FAU program over from the now departed Lane Kiffin, as the former Florida State coach inherits an Owls team that won 11 games just a year ago.
With starting quarterback Chris Robison being dismissed from the program back in August, Taggart will have to find another signal-caller who can step in for Robison full time. The former QB tossed 28 touchdowns to just 6 interceptions a year ago.
Nick Tronti looks to have won the job in camp, having played limited reps a year ago while being efficient in his appearances.
Malcolm Davidson returns for an Owls squad as its leading rusher from a year ago, having racked up 711 yards and 9 touchdowns a year ago. FAU will have to replace its leading pass catcher in tight end Harrison Bryant, who was drafted by the Cleveland Browns back in April.
Tavaris Harrison and Deangelo Antoine are also departed from the Owls program having slotted in second and third in the teams’ receiving yardage from a year ago, so Tronti will need to establish a rapport with a new set of pass catchers coming out of Summer practices.
Defensively, Florida Atlantic was fairly stout against the run in 2019, allowing just 139 yards per game to opposing offenses. That sort of production will need to continue against the rushing attack of the Eagles.
Linebacker Leighton McCarthy’s return for this year’s campaign should give the Owls a chance to continue its strong run defense from a year ago, with McCarthy having accrued 10.5 tackles for a loss last season.
With the way that Georgia Southern played last week, its going to be hard to slot them in for any automatic victories this year. I think FAU comes out of the gates strong with its passing attack and exploits the Eagles Achilles’ heel of its secondary play.
Final Score: FAU 31, Georgia Southern 24