Spartans Welcome Sun Belt Champs FAU

Schnellenber resurrected dead programs at Miami (1975) and Louisville (1985) before taking on his latest challenge, starting a program at Florida Atlantic located between the sunny beaches of Ft. Lauderdale and the star-studded nightlife of Miami.

EAST LANSING - Michigan State (1-1) will host defending Sun Belt conference and New Orleans bowl champion Florida Atlantic (1-1), led by legendary head coach Howard Schnellenberger in Saturday's matchup in East Lansing.

The Owls are fresh off an impressive win over the UAB Blazers but fell hard (52-10) when they took on Texas a week earlier.

While most fans know little about the Owls, they should be aware that they are led by one of the most legendary coaches in the game in Howard Schnellenberger.

Schnellenber resurrected dead programs at Miami (1975) and Louisville (1985) before taking on his latest challenge, starting a program at Florida Atlantic located between the sunny beaches of Ft. Lauderdale and the star-studded nightlife of Miami.

He defeated Michigan State 18-7 the last time they met in the 1993 Liberty Bowl.

FAU is led by junior quarterback Rusty Smith one of the top passers in the Sun Belt conference and among the most efficient in the nation.

Smith threw for 32 touchdowns in 2007 and has thrown for at least one touchdown in fourteen of the past 16 games and compiled a 141.63 passer rating last season. Running back Charles Pierre rushed for 782 yards and seven touchdowns on 170 attempts.

Defensively, Owls linebcker Frantz Joseph (11 tackles, 1/2 sack vs. UAB) is on the Butkus Award watch list, just one of two players from the Sun Belt conference listed.

But it's the lights out offense of FAU that is drawing attention of MSU fans heading into Saturday's matchup.

In Saturday's 49-34 win over UAB, Smith (21-of34 for 325) threw three TD passes and senior running back Charles Pierre (13 carries, for 139 yards) rushed for two more.

INSIDE SLANT: MSU's defense will be severely tested by the Owls short passing game which is similar to the West Coast offense. The Spartans linebacking corps is likely to be the area that the Owls attack when they have the ball.

Look for FAU to thrown the ball underneath and try to create plays in space against MSU's linebackers. The Spartans will need to be sure tackling and not allow the speedy, but smallish Owls to get into the secondary. FAU will run the ball with Pierre enough to try to keep the Spartans from pinning their ears back with a pass rush.

MSU will need to be disciplined and stay at home to avoid allowing short passes to turn into big plays.

Conversely, look for a big dose of Javon Ringer, coming off a 135-yard, five touchdown performance against Eastern Michigan.

The Spartans would love to run the ball down the smaller, less talented FAU defense's throat. If they can keep the ball out of the hands of Smith early and wear down the Owls defense, it could be a long day for FAU.

NOTEWORTHY: MSU will visit Ft. Lauderdale in 2010 to play, and likely attempt to recruit, in the fertile, talent-rich South Florida area, a place where they've had mild recruiting success to date.


Spartan Digest Top Stories