Today we look at FAU's conference schedule and conclude with a prediction for the season.
With Conference USA being top heavy with a mesh of teams capable of beating one another on any given Saturday, it will be important for FAU to win tossup games if they are to have any chance of competing for the division title.
At Charlotte C-USA (5-6) SEPT. 26
The Owls will start conference play on the road against new conference mate Charlotte. Charlotte will be making their transition from FCS to FBS this season. The Owls will try to their first conference road opener since 2009. The 49ers will be hyped to start to conference play and if FAU is to be taken serious as a threat to win the East and vie for a bowl bid this game is a must win in what will be a raucous environment. FAU will be the first FBS program to visit Jerry Richardson Stadium.
Vs Rice C-USA (8-5, 5-3) OCT. 10
FAU will be coming off a bye week before they host Rice. The last time FAU played Rice was in 2013 when Rice capitalized on two FAU turnovers late in the fourth quarter to win 18-14 in Rice Stadium.
Rice is being tabbed by many to compete with Louisiana Tech to win the C-USA West division. Driphus Jackson will be back to lead the Rice offense after throwing 24 touchdowns last year.
Vs Marshall C-USA (13-1, 7-1) OCT. 17
Many implications could be at play when Marshall travels to FAU Stadium as the two teams could be battling for more than south Florida recruits, but first place in the East standings as well. Marshall won their first visit here 24-23 in 2013.
The Herd will have to replace their record-setting quarterback in Rakeem Cato but should still feature an explosive offense no matter who's taking the snaps. This game will determine if FAU is a serious contender for the C-USA championship in what will probably be another shootout.
At UTEP C-USA (7-6, 5-3) OCT. 24
FAU's first trip to the Sun Bowl game has all the makings of a trap game as the matchup with UTEP will be the first ever meeting between the schools. The Owls will be coming off of two straight home games against C-USA title contenders. The Miners boast a potential strong running game as Second Team All C-USA performer Aaron Jones will be the focal point for the Miners offense. This game will present another opportunity for FAU to establish consistency on the road.
Vs FIU C-USA (4-8, 3-5) OCT. 31
FAU is 9-4 all-time against FIU but will entering this year's Shula Bowl motivated after four turnover's sealed a 38-10 defeat in Miami last season. FAU has lost three out of the last four Shula Bowl's and if Partridge is to keep any of the momentum gained on the recruiting trail a win here is an absolute must.
At WKU C-USA (8-5, 4-4) NOV. 7
This game has all the makings of a shootout as quarterback Brandon Doughty will lead one of the best offenses in the country. First place as well as a fight to be bowl eligible could be on the line. If FAU is still having problems on the road before this game the Tops could easily win by 30 points.
Vs MTSU C-USA (6-6, 5-3) NOV. 14
The last two games against the Blue Raiders have gone to the wire with MTSU winning both games by a combined eight points. MTSU head coach Rick Stockstill always has MTSU in the thick of the conference race as they have gone 11-5 in C-USA over the last two years. Many expect this to be the best MTSU team in years if quarterback Austin Gammer can take care of the ball better than last year - 12 interceptions versus 17 touchdowns.
At Old Dominion C-USA (6-6, 4-4) NOV. 28
Last year ODU defeated FAU 31-28 in the final game of the regular season last year. This season FAU will try to return the favor in what should be a much weaker Monarch as they will have to replace a ton of seniors including four-year starting quarterback Taylor Heinicke.
The schedule makers did the Owls no favors by making what should be their most winnable conference game against Charlotte a conference road opener. For a program that has struggled to win games on the road to go into what will be a buzzsaw environment for Charlotte's first ever game in conference play will be no easy task.
If the Owls take care of what will be a far less-talented 49er team they will be in prime position to put C-USA on notice with Marshall and Rice both coming to Boca Raton the following weeks.
Winning on the road has always been an issue with the Owls and with winnable road games on this year's conference slate it could make one believe that this could be the year they conquer their road demons. But as they say, defense travels and its been a while since FAU has had a viable defense.
The Owls are more talented this year and will surpass last year's win total but with a schedule that features eight teams that were bowl eligible last season, they will flirt with bowl eligibility and hover around .500 in conference play.