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Florida Atlantic was on the cusp of something better last year, losing two overtime games to solid teams and two other games by a touchdown or less. But, the Owls finished with just three wins, all of them coming in Conference USA play. With more consistency and a better offense, a bowl game could be in reach for FAU.
An improved offense starts with new coordinator Travis Trickett, who brings over a fast-paced, no-huddle system. The Owls averaged 22.5 points per game last year, so improvement is expected. Quarterback was undecided in the summer and probably will be until the season starts. Sophomore Jason Driskel will compete with freshman Daniel Parr for the job. Driskel saw time last year, while Parr impressed as a redshirt.
Either way, FAU will still lean heavily on its ground game due to the pieces available. Buddy Howell (598 yards, 3 TDs) and Jay Warren (449 yards, 3 TDs) have split touches the last two years and that looks to be the case again. The Owls were fifth in the conference in rushing last year and those numbers could be better with four starters returning along the offensive line, including stud left tackle Reggie Bain.
They'll return most of their guys at receiver with Kamrin Solomon (382 yards, 2 TDs), Kalib Woods (330 yards, 3 TDs), Henry Bussey (236 yards) and tight end Tyler Cameron. In addition, Nate Terry is expected to be the top receiver this year after leading the team with four touchdowns in 2015.
Defensively, FAU was passable last season and finished in the middle of the conference allowing 28.8 points per game. After freshmen took over the group last year, there are now tons of sophomores in the two-deep. The only senior expected to start is monster Trey Hendrickson, who finished with 13.5 sacks a year ago.
Linebacker is set with sophomore Azeez Al-Shaair, who led the team in tackles with 94, and Nate Ozdemir. The secondary has the same amount of experience with returning starters at corner and safety. With young talent still all around, this group can get better.
Head coach Charlie Partridge has gone 6-18 in his first two years with the Owls, but this might be the first year they take the next leap. FAU has two non-conference home games against Southern Illinois and Ball State that could lead to two early wins. They'll have some tough C-USA road games, but have enough favorable contests to reach six wins. That includes home games against Charlotte and Ole Dominion, as well as trips to FIU and Rice.
The Owls actually have the fourth-best odds to win the C-USA East, so that's a good sign after just three wins last year. If the offense can improve under Trickett as expected, watch out for FAU in a bowl game this season.
2016 Florida Atlantic Owls Football Schedule
Sept. 3 vs. Southern Illinois
Sept. 10 at Miami (FL)
Sept. 17 at Kansas State
Sept. 24 vs. Ball State
Oct. 1 at Florida International
Oct. 8 vs. Charlotte
Oct. 15 at Marshall
Oct. 29 vs. Western Kentucky
Nov. 5 at Rice
Nov. 12 vs. UTEP
Nov. 19 vs. Old Dominion
Nov. 26 at Middle Tennessee
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