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Opponent Q&A: FAU with Underdog Dynasty

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Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Hurricanes hit the road for a rare Friday Night contest Bs the FAU Owls (8PM EST FSN).

In preparation for the match-up and to learn a little more about FAU, we caught up with Cyrus Smith, writer for Underdog Dynasty, and the resident expert on their site for the Owls.

Check out the full Q&A below, and be sure to head over to UD for more information on FAU.

UD

SOTU: FAU put up some impressive numbers, despite losing 47-44 in their opener to Tulsa.  Encapsulate this team for us.  Are they all offense, no defense?  What are the strengths and weaknesses for the Owls?

CS: Entering the year FAU's offense had the potential to be outstanding while the defense, with better depth on the defensive line, projected to be better than last year's unit. After week one, this team has all the makings of one that will either win shootouts, or lose shootouts. The strength of the team starts in the backfield with senior quarterback Jaquez Johnson. Johnson accounted for 360 total yards, and three touchdowns against Tulsa. Add in running backs Greg 'Buddy' Howell and Jay Warren and the Owls have a potent rushing attack. FAU ran for 300 yards against Tulsa. The team's biggest weakness is the secondary. FAU has to replace three starters in the secondary entering this season. Tulsa exploited the secondary's inexperience for 424 yards.

SOTU:  The offense seems to be centered around talented QB Jacquez Johnson.   Tell us about his game, and who else on the FAU offense can hurt the 'Canes?
CS: Johnson has come a long way since making his first start in Sun Life Stadium two years ago. Johnson and offensive coordinator Brian Wright have been together for three years now. He knows the playbook in-and-out and rarely makes mistakes (5 interceptions last year). He is a very streaky downfield passer as he can be inaccurate at times with the deep ball. However, what he lacks in accuracy he more than makes up for with his mobility. Johnson isn't a blazer by any means but will definitely take off if presented with an opportunity. In the open field he will look to run through defenders as he looks like a bowling-ball when in the open field. In goal-line opportunities Wright tends to call Johnson's number to punch it in the end zone. When Johnson is throwing the ball downfield he usually connects with Jenson Stoshak. Buddy Howell is another guy who could hurt the Canes as he's FAU's most talented running back.

SOTU:  Who are the playmakers to watch on defense for the Owls?
CS: Cre'von LeBlanc is FAU's most experienced defensive back. He recorded an interception against Tulsa. Another playmaker on defense is defensive tackle Trevon Coley. Coley recorded a sack and forced fumble against Tulsa. I would also throw in tackle Brandin Bryant for good measure who has the size (6'3' 290 lbs) to disrupt the 'Canes rushing attack.


SOTU:  What match-ups/players on Miami should FAU fans be worried about?
CS: FAU fans are primarily worried about the secondary as Jake Stoshak, Sharrod Neasman, and Herb Miller did not inspire a ton of confidence against Tulsa. Tulsa quarterback Dane Evans lit up the Owls when he had a clean pocket to throw from. At times he appeared erratic and would make some risky decisions, but it wasn't enough to deter him from taking chances as Tulsa's receivers had a huge height advantage with 6'4' wideout Keyarris Garrett (163 receiving yards). Brad Kaaya is a much better quarterback than Evans and is a lot more careful with the ball. With Rashawn Scott listed at 6'2', the secondary may be in for another long day against a lengthy receiver.


SOTU: What kind of environment can UM expect  for a Friday Night game in Boca?
CS: The atmosphere Friday night will be fantastic. The student section will be out in full force and the game is expected to be a a sell out. There has never been this much buzz surrounding a home game since the first ever game against Western Kentucky. Last year's home opener against Tulsa, the students packed the stands as the Owls fed off the energy and defeated Tulsa 50-21. Since Charlie Partridge has been the head coach he has really embraced FAU's secondary color red. Expect to see a ton of red in the stands and maybe even on FAU's uniforms. With Miami fans expected to make the drive, the stands will be probably be 50-50 split. Some of FAU's alumni will remember the time when FAU hosted 6th ranked USF at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale and say that environment was better, but that atmosphere will pale in comparison to what will take place this weekend.


SOTU:  Can the Owls compete this season in C-USA?    What's the overall feeling of the conference's members about the UAB situation?
CS: The Owls certainly have the talent to compete in C-USA. Partridge has been recruiting at a great level as he has continued to rake in talent from south Florida high schools and I could definitely see FAU being a main fixture in C-USA. As for this season, I thought they could be a dark horse to unseat Marshall in the East division (http://www.underdogdynasty.com/conference-usa/2015/8/7/9114223/fau-surprise-c-usa-east-title-run).
They lost three conference games last year in the final seconds. The talent is there. Now they have to finish. Something they have yet to do on a consistent basis.

The outreach from schools in C-USA has been phenomenal in support of the Blazers. As a G5 school, the reality is that situation could have happened to any university. Throw in the shadiness from the regents at UAB and it was easy to support the UAB football program. As for the Blazers football program re-joining C-USA, that seems to be a given as the conference currently has 13 teams with Charlotte being this year's new edition, and with commissioner Britton Banowsky on board it seems to be a forgone conclusion.

SOTU:  Last but certainly not least, give us your detailed prediction for Friday Night?

CS: If FAU had defeated Tulsa the team's confidence would through the roof entering this game. Alas, they didn't, as they lost in heartbreaking fashion once again in overtime 47-44. The team will still be pretty geeked about the game, but I feel the wind may be already out of their sails after suffering another late-game loss. With Al Golden coaching for his job, I expect Miami's focus to be locked in once the game starts. The first quarter will be exciting as FAU will take an early lead as the team comes out on fire. However, the talent disparity between the two teams will kick-in midway through the 2nd quarter after the Owls can no longer feed off the adrenaline from the crowd. Miami will overcome the early jitters, and take a double digit lead into halftime. Kaaya connects with Scott for a few touchdowns in the third quarter which allows Miami to cruise to a 48-23 victory.

Thanks again to Cyrus for working with us.

Be sure to check out what should be a very interesting game this Friday Night.