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FAU Can Make a Surprise Run For The C-USA East Title Too

Marshall and Western Kentucky has been getting all the love to win the East and play in the Conference USA Championship game, but don't sleep on FAU who has been a major thorn in their sides in recent history.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Allow me to introduce myself: my name is Cyrus Smith, and I will be the Florida Atlantic beat writer for the upcoming season. If the name sounds familiar it's because Cyrus is in the bible, and Smith is a very common last name.

I have always been a fan of the content on Underdog Dynasty, and am now proud to be an author on this great site. I hope throughout the year I'll be able to provide you all with some fun, and accurate content that is everything FAU.

Now lets get to why they brought me here... Lets talk some football!

Entering the 2015-2016 college football season, C-USA East is being tabbed as a two-team race between Marshall and Western Kentucky and for good reason too. Under head coach Doc Holliday, Marshall has dominated the newly configured C-USA, going 15-3 over the past two seasons. Last year, the Herd defeated Louisiana Tech 26-23 to win the C-USA title after losing in last year's title game to Rice 41-24. Throw in the fact that according to 247sports, they've compiled the best recruiting class in the conference since 2013, and you can see why the pundits are tabbing them to win the C-USA East again for the third straight year.

Oh, and WKU, they only ruined Marshall's chance for an undefeated season and a shot at nabbing the coveted Group of Five bid to play in a major bowl in last year's 67-66 overtime thriller behind the arm of senior Brandon Doughty. Doughty's back for his last hurrah, and so is 1,500 yard rusher Leon Allen, their top two receivers, and three returning lineman that helped catapult an offense that averaged 44.4 points per game. Throw in the fact that their defense can't possibly be as bad as it was last year and you can see why the Hilltoppers were officially tabbed as the favorite to win the East during this year's C-USA preseason media poll.

But lets not forget about the team in Boca Raton who has been a major pain in both Marshall and WKU's respective sides. Now of course, FAU finished last in the C-USA East division at 2-6, 3-9 overall, but the Owls were devastated by injuries on the defensive side of the ball throughout the season and at one point even had to start a freshman, walk-on linebacker, in Jerrad Ward against North Texas. Arguably no injury hurt FAU's defense more than Brandin Bryant going down with a torn ACL.

This season Bryant returns, as well as starters Trevon Cooley and Trey Hendrickson. You know, the combo that punctuated FAU's come from behind victory against WKU as Hendrickson strip-sacked Doughty with Cooley on the fumble recovery for the 45-38 win. Throw in Rutgers transfer Nick Internicola, and the front line should be among C-USA's best.

The offense should still be near the top as Jaquez Johnson returns for his final season to command what could potentially be the best rushing attack in C-USA with Jay Warren and Greg 'Buddy' Howell joining him in the backfield. They lose their best playmaker in Lucky Whitehead but return sure handed receiver Jenson Stoshak.

Last year FAU defeated WKU 45-38 to make them winners three out of the past four meetings dating back to their days as conference mates in the Sun Belt. FAU led Marshall 16-14 on the road last season before losing 35-16. The year before that, Marshall defeated FAU 24-23 thanks to several special teams blunders by the Owls.

WKU has defensive issues and Marshall has to replace back-to-back C-USA Player of the Year in Rakeem Cato. FAU has shown they aren't afraid of these two perceived clear-cut favorites in the C-USA East division. With another year under head coach Charlie Partridge's belt, FAU has the personnel to make its own run for the division title.