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Florida Atlantic

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Lots of buzz surrounds Florida Atlantic now that Lane Kiffin is head coach. He takes over a team that hasn't made a bowl since 2008 and is coming off a three-win campaign. Kiffin has a long way to go with talent still a question in his first year, making a bowl appearance unlikely for the Owls.

Last year’s starting quarterback Jason Driskel (9 TDs, 11 INTs) will fight with transfer De’Andre Johnson for the starting gig. Johnson was dismissed from the Florida State team two years ago and could win the job after spending a year at a community college. Either that or Driskel has to improve a bunch. Devin Singletary (1,021 yards, 12 TDs) and Greg Howell Jr. (828 yards, 13 TDs) form a nice duo at running back and should be a bright spot in the offense. Three starters return along the line to go with Reggie Bain, a tackle that missed last year with injury. If the passing game can improve (and it shoulder under Kendal Briles), this offense could have some potential. Kalib Woods (934 yards) is the top returning receiver with a couple other seniors in starting roles.

Still, the biggest area of improvement for this team has to be on the defensive side after giving up almost 40 points per game. Kiffin’s younger brother will lead the group and move to a 4-2-5 scheme without a couple of last year’s top linebackers. Azeer Al-Shaair returns after 113 tackles along with a secondary that has four starters back, including playmaking safety Jalen Young. Ray Ellis may be the biggest name on the line after missing 2016 with injury. The coaches and scheme are new, meaning this side of the ball has plenty of work to do.

FAU would like to get off to a good start, but that may be unlikely with Navy and Wisconsin on the schedule. Even a trip to Buffalo isn’t all that easy. The Owls may need five wins in C-USA play to reach a bowl. With a decent enough schedule, that should be possible as all of their home games are winnable. Then again, expecting this team to beat Middle Tennessee, even at home, is a stretch after giving up 77 points to them in last year’s season finale. They’ll likely need to get an upset on the road and that will be Charlotte. Six wins is a possibility if everything goes right, so four or five will be more likely (over/under at 4.5).

That said, Florida Atlantic has juiced +1000 odds at 5Dimes Sportsbook to win the conference, probably because Kiffin is now coach. That places the Owls fourth in the East division, barely behind Middle Tennessee (+800) and Old Dominion (+925). If anything, that feels like a sucker bet given that FAU was sixth in the division last year and their only two conference wins came against the bottom teams in the West (North Texas and La. Tech now on schedule).


2017 Florida Atlantic Owls Football Schedule

Sept. 1 vs. Navy
Sept. 9 at Wisconsin
Sept. 16 vs. Bethune-Cookman
Sept. 23 at Buffalo

Sept. 30 vs. Middle Tennessee
Oct. 7 at Old Dominion

Oct. 21 vs. North Texas
Oct. 28 at Western Kentucky

Nov. 3 vs. Marshall
Nov. 11 at Louisiana Tech
Nov. 18 vs. Florida International
Nov. 25 at Charlotte

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