This will be part one of a two part series in which we analyze FAU's schedule. Today we look at the non-conference slate.
Many factors contribute to how well a football team's season plays out. Talent, injuries, suspensions, and how well coaches get the most out of their players are just a few of many factors that contribute to the win-loss column. But perhaps the most important factor is the schedule.
Once again FAU will have a difficult non-conference schedule as they will play two Power 5 Conference teams. After ending the season on a five-game losing streak, head coach Charlie Partridge enters his second season with some pressure to begin the season on a positive note.
At Tulsa: AAC (2-10, 2-6) SEPT. 5
FAU will open the season on the road at Tulsa. Last year was the first ever meeting between the two schools as FAU dominated Tulsa 50-21 in what was their most complete game of the season. The win gave Partridge his first ever collegiate win as a head coach.
This year Tulsa will try to return the favor as Phillip Montgomery will replace Bill Blankenship as Tulsa's head coach. Montgomery was the offensive coordinator at Baylor the last three years and will try to bring back Tulsa's tradition of having explosive offenses after the Golden Hurricane averaged just 24.7 points per game last year.
This game should be a great litmus test for the Owls as FAU will have the opportunity to vanquish some road demons after going winless last year. A win here will build some much needed confidence before the highly-anticipated home opener against Miami, (FL.)
Vs Miami (FL.): ACC (6-7, 3-5) SEPT. 11
Many around the FAU community is dubbing this as the biggest game in FAU Stadium history as the Owls will host the Miami Hurricanes in their second ever meeting in what should be the stadium's first sellout since opening the stadium against Western Kentucky in 2011.
Miami took the lone game between the two, 34-6 in the 2013 season opener. Despite Miami's lack of recent dominance on the field, they still boast NFL talent on their roster with perhaps their best future pro being sophomore quarterback Brad Kaaya. If the Owls are to have any chance defensive coordinator Roc Bellantoni will have to devise the gameplan of his career and ride what should be a raucous crowd.
Vs Buffalo: MAC (5-6, 3-4) SEPT. 19
This will be the first ever meeting between the two programs. Buffalo will have a new head coach as Lance Leipold will make the transition from DIII to FBS. Leipold won 6 DIII National Titles at Wisconsin-Whitewater, with a 109-6 record.
Leipold's leap from DIII to FBS along with his track record makes Buffalo a tough team to project. The Bulls' passing game could be deadly as they bring back one of the top quarterbacks in the MAC with Joe Licata. Licata passed for 2647 yards with 29 touchdown last season. Homefield advantage should give FAU the edge as Buffalo hasn't won a non-conference game on the road since 2009.
At Florida: SEC (7-5, 4-4) NOV. 21
Florida will look to use this game as a tune up as they get set to take on rival Florida State the following week. Although breaking in a new head coach in Jim McElwain, the Gators should be a know commodity by the time the Owls travel to Gainesville with the game taking place a week before the regular season concludes.
Like Miami, Florida will have have more talent than the Owls. However, motivation could be key by the time the teams get together as FAU could be fighting for bowl eligibility whereas the Gators could be close to packing it in if the transition from Will Muschamp to McElwain isn't as smooth as expected.
As is the case with many small programs, FAU will play two Group of 5 teams out of conference just like last year when they played Nebraska and Alabama. Similar to last year, the rest of the slate provides two very winnable games with a home game against Buffalo and a road game against Tulsa. A split between Buffalo and Tulsa would be a huge blow to the Owls' chances for a bowl bid.
The first game of the year against Tulsa will be a huge swing game for the season with Miami coming in to town the following week. Going 2-2 out of conference is very attainable. Anything worse would be a disappointment.