OSU-Florida Atlantic: Key Matchups

What to watch for when the Cowboys kick it off against the Owls on national television (ESPN2) on Thursday night from Dolphins Stadium.

OSU offensive line vs. FAU defensive front
This is one the Cowboys have to win and win big. Kansas ran for 244 yards last week and the Jayhawk offensive line really didn't play that well. OSU is better in the offensive line and with tackles Charlie Johnson (6-4, 305) and Corey Hilliard (6-5, 310) going against defensive ends Josh Pinnick (6-5, 222) and Josh Jenkins (6-3, 212) it could be a party. The FAU defensive line averages 243 pounds per man. The Owls are fast and in many situations will run a 3-4-4 or 3-3-5 defense. How do you attack speed? You don't run away from it, you run right at it. It really isn't what the Cowboys are moving toward with the new spread offense, but with Shawn Willis back and John Johnson and Julius Crosslin around it is something the Cowboys have the personnel to do.

D'Juan Woods vs. Willie Hughley
I put this is because it could be fun to watch. The Owls love to run lots of cover 3 and cover 4, but they do mix in some man-to-man/free coverages. It may be worth the price of admission to watch these two go one-on-one. D'Juan is ready to take off as a playmaker and might have last week if his brother had done a better job of getting him the ball. Hughley comes in highly regarded. KU coach Mark Mangino said he was a really good player. Last season Hughley had 43 tackles and six interceptions.

OSU pass rush vs. FAU offensive line and Danny Embick
Embick is a riverboat gambler and has good feet. He reminds me of John Elway in his early days in the NFL, but he is only 6-0, 215 pounds. He will do anything to get the pass off. KU got a safety at the beginning of the game because of an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone on Embick. But he came back later and made a nice move on a defensive end and stepped up to hit a 66-yard touchdown pass to Thomas Parker. Three big plays were responsible for close to half of their offensive output. KU sacked him three times, but should have had six or seven sacks. The offensive line for FAU is good size, but mostly inexperienced. This is a game where OSU should do a good job of getting to the passer. If they do not get a sack they need to make sure Embick knows they are coming and feels every pass he gets off. If that happens then maybe some of those desperate throws he gets off will wind up in Cowboy hands.

OSU's Daniel McLemore and the punt return unit vs. FAU punter Mike Brown and the Owl punt unit
This is another match up that could impact the game, but it is also for entertainment. OSU fans saw a glimpse last week of what McLemore can do as he had to work against that tricky rugby style punt of Montana State. This week it is conventional as Brown is a veteran punter who is an awards candidate, at least in the Sun Belt. He averages 44 yards a kick with good hang time. McLemore is excited about getting some returns. One of those punts going back is the kind of momentum that can lead to a blow out. It's a nice thought.

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