Series record: First Meeting
2011 National Rankings:
Auburn:/Florida Atlantic: Rush Offense: 40th/Rush Offense: 120th Pass Offense: 75th/Pass Offense: 119th Total Offense: 69th/Total Offense: 120th Score Offense: 39th/Score Offense: 120th Rush Defense: 116th/Rush Defense: 93rd Pass Defense: 100th/Pass Defense: 95th Total Defense: 117th/Total Defense: 107th/ Score Defense: 107th/Score Defense: 115th
About Florida Atlantic...
Florida Atlantic enters its 11th season in college football, all under the leadership of Coach Howard Schnellenberger, who has compiled a record of 57-65-0 as the Owls' head coach. Off to a 0-2 start this year, the Owls have posted four winning seasons over the past 10 years, but have fallen upon hard times in their last 27 games, winning only 9 games during the last three seasons.
One of the reasons for FAU's poor start in 2011 is an offense that is off to one of the worst starts in the modern era of college football. Through two games the Owls have averaged just 92.5 yards per game and have yet to register an offensive touchdown from 90 offensive snaps playing at Florida and at Michigan State.
The Owls have just 10 first downs offensively, converting only 2-23 third down situations. Running back Alfred Norris leads the team in rushing with 37 yards on 24 carries. Quarterback Graham Wilbert has not thrown an interception this season, but has only 122 yards passing on 36 pass attempts. Tight end Nexon Dorvilus leads the team in receptions with four for 57 yards.
The FAU defense has allowed 451 yards and 42 points per game this season in road tests against the Florida Gators and Michigan State. Cornerback Marcus Battles leads the team with 19 tackles. Linebackers Randell Johnson and David Hinds lead the Owls in tackles for lost yardage with two each.
The Owls have allowed 192 yards rushing and 258 yards passing per game through two games, but are 30th nationally in tackles for loss. Their opponents have converted 54 percent of their third down opportunities and have scored on 10 of 12 trips inside the Owls' red zone.
FAU is No. 90 in net punting, No. 97 in punt return defense and has yet to return a punt in 2011. The Owls are No. 23 in kickoff return offense and No. 55 in kickoff return defense. Vinny Zaccario is 1-2 on field goals.
Inside the Numbers...
•FAU is 0-4 against SEC opponents with an average score of 47-15 and is 1-20 against FBS schools.
•The Owl offense has generated two pass plays of 15 yards or more this season and only one of 25 yards or more. Their running game has three run plays of 10 yards or more and has yet to register a run over 20 yards.
•FAU has averaged just 1.5 yards per play on first down on offense while allowing 5.3 yards per play on defense.
•Based on Scout's recruiting rankings, Florida Atlantic has failed to sign a player rated above two stars since 2007.
•With 358 yards rushing, Michael Dyer is on pace for a 1,400-yard season.
•The Auburn offense is averaging 7.56 yards per play on first down.
•During the last two games Auburn has averaged 6.38 yards per run.
•The combination of Emory Blake and Travante Stallworth has been solid through three games. The duo has combined for 21 receptions, averaging 19.0 yards per reception. This has accounted for four TDs and 13 plays of 15 yards or more.
•The combination of Dyer and Onterio McCalebb has combined for 196.0 yards per game in total offense, including nine impact plays.
Neiko Thorpe moved to safety this season after starting at cornerback the past two years.
•Neiko Thorpe leads the Auburn defense with 36 tackles, easily on pace for a 100-tackle season. A concern for the Tigers is that three of Auburn's top five tacklers are from the secondary.
Why Auburn should win...
•Florida Atlantic has the worst offense in college football this year and won't be much of a test for the Auburn defense.
•Through two games FAU has allowed 85 points while scoring only three.
•Auburn simply has the Owls out-manned at every position on the field in terms of talent and depth.
•Under Gus Malzahn the Auburn offense has averaged 52 points per game against opponents from a non-BCS conference.
•Even if Auburn played its second stringers for the entire game, the Tigers would still have the Owls clearly out-manned.
Why Florida Atlantic could make it competitive...
•The Owls had an extra week of preparation and Auburn has played back-to-back physical games.
•Though Auburn's offense has been productive against opponents from a non-BCS conference, the defense has allowed 24 points per game against the same opponents.
•Auburn will likely clear its bench in this game, which means FAU won't likely face Auburn's starters for more than one half.
•Auburn could come into the game flat after a dismal performance against Clemson last Saturday and FAU not being an opponent that excites the home team.
Auburn's winning streak ended at 17 games with a 38-24 pounding at Clemson, but it was an amazing accomplishment tying the school record for the second longest winning streak. Florida Atlantic should be the perfect opponent this Saturday for Auburn to work on some of the issues that have plagued the team this season.
The primary goal for the Tigers should be improving each week, starting this Saturday against the Owls. FAU likely won't be much of a challenge, but the real opponent could be the Tigers themselves. Auburn's players need to strive for improvement as individuals before the "team" can perform better.
To say Florida Atlantic has struggled on offense would be a huge understatement. The Owls have gone "three-and-out" in 12 of 22 possessions with only one play of more than 20 yards through two games. In its last 11 games against a BCS opponent, FAU has averaged 242.1 yards per game at 3.87 yards per play, scoring 7.1 points per contest.
Statistically speaking, Florida Atlantic is the worst offense at the FBS level. Despite Auburn's defensive shortcomings, the Owls won't likely test the Tiger defense enough to make a game of it. The emphasis for Auburn this week will be limiting the mental mistakes and executing better on both sides of the football.
With Auburn's brutal schedule, Florida Atlantic becomes a bonus in terms of helping the Tigers become bowl eligible in 2011. It's also an opportunity for some of the less experienced players on the roster to gain valuable playing time as well as an opportunity for front-line players to improve after a disappointing road trip to Clemson. Auburn missed numerous opportunities on offense, defense and special teams last Saturday because of issues with the execution.
When the Tigers return to SEC play they must improve on the details that keep drives alive on offense and allow the defense to get off the field in a timely manner. This game can be an important step toward making that happen.
Auburn will win this Saturday, but how the Tigers win will make a big difference down the road. Auburn should out-talent the Owls, but the Tigers need to show they can out-perform them, too. Auburn 41, Florida Atlantic 13
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