Three Most Dangerous Owls
1. Robert St. Clair, DE
2. Cergile Sincere, WLB
3. Charles Pierre, RB
Three Most Important Matchups
1. OSU Offensive Line vs. FAU Defensive Front Seven
This is the most critical matchup of the game. Florida Atlantic is much improved on defense and it is the front seven that is leading the way. Last week they shut down Middle Tennessee State, the co-favorite this season and co-champion of the Sun Belt last season. Middle Tennessee rushed 32 times for a grand total of 18 yards. The passing game fared a little better but overall the Blue Raiders offense mustered only 217 yards. On Thursday night against eighth-ranked Louisville, Middle Tennessee accumulated nearly 600 yards and scored 48 points. You can't compare from week to week, and there is always improvement - usually significant improvement - from week one to week two. However, FAU has been improving defensively for a couple of years now. The front seven features two seniors and five juniors in the starting line up. Defensive ends Robert St. Clair (two sacks in the opener) and Josh Pinnick (Lombardi Award watch list) both have good size and move well. The defensive tackles are solid with 6-5, 300-pounder Jervonte Jackson being a load to push out of the way.
The linebackers might remind you of a smaller version of what Georgia put on the field as they move really well from sideline-to-sideline. Weakside linebacker Cergile Sincere is the ringleader of the defense, while strongside linebacker Andre Clark and middle man Frantz Joseph each had eight tackles in the opener. Yes, these guys tackle well.
In last season's 48-8 win over the Owls, the OSU offensive line vs. the FAU defensive line was a key matchup as the Cowboys throttled FAU with the running game. They need to repeat that performance, and they need to build back some confidence after playing sub-par at Georgia. My instincts tell me the OSU offensive line wins this battle, the Cowboys rush for more than 200 yards, and Bobby Reid is protected well enough to show off his running and passing talent. Based on last week's performance, however, the best you can say going in is this matchup is even.
Advantage: Even (based on first week performances)
2. OSU Secondary vs. FAU Passing Game
Florida Atlantic has improved on offense too but not to the degree that they have on defense. Running backs Charles Pierre, B.J. Manley and Willie Floyd all have talent and combined for 216 rushing yards in the opening win over Middle Tennessee. But the FAU offensive line isn't good enough to get that kind of production against the Oklahoma State defense. I know, the Cowboys need to tackle and they will on Saturday.
The Owls will need to pass and this is an area where Jacob Lacey, Martel Van Zant, Ricky Price and Andre Sexton can have some fun. The Cowboys defense forced no turnovers at Georgia, but 6-foot-6 FAU quarterback Rusty Smith is not Matt Stafford. The two are the same classification, but Stafford has picked up more lessons and has a bigger arm than Smith. FAU will come in with only three wide receivers (Cortez Gent is missing the game for his grandfather's funeral). The Owls will still have to throw and with some help from the pass rush the ball should be up for grabs on occasion. The Cowboys need to grab some.
Advantage: OSU Secondary
3. OSU Special Teams vs. FAU Special Teams
I know, you're saying, 'Wait a second. Oklahoma State wasn't exactly stellar on special teams at Georgia.' There was the bad punt snap and the Cowboys allowed a long punt return. I think you will see those mistakes cleared up. The Cowboys did get a great effort out of punter Matt Fodge, they handled the new kickoff rule fairly well, and had a long kickoff return by Perrish Cox.
Special teams are not a strong suit of the Owls. Last week they gave up a touchdown on a blocked punt. Their kicker never landed a kickoff inside the 10-yard line and on seven punts they averaged 32.4 yards. This is an advantage waiting to happen. When you compare offense, defense and special teams, it is special teams where the Cowboys may have the biggest advantage. The Cowboy specialists, returners, blockers, and cover men need to maximize it.
Advantage: OSU Special Teams
OSU-Florida Atlantic Prediction
The Appalachian State win over Michigan last week has given every lower Division I team and every Championship Sub-Division team the hopes of pulling off a miracle, and inspiration that they can compete with anybody. Turning around a 48-8 loss from a year ago would be high order for the Owls, but remember they turned a 35-14 loss to Middle Tennessee last season into a 27-14 win last week in their opener -- a 34-point turnaround.
The loss to Georgia has left the Cowboys, quite frankly, ticked off. They need to take it out on somebody and, hopefully, they have a healthy respect for Florida Atlantic and will be the kind of hosts they need to be, which means sahking hands at the coin toss and then finish all the hits, blocks, runs, and passes that went unfinished in Athens.
A quick start would be nice and special teams may be the ticket for that. If not, these Cowboys need to stay the course because a win is imperative, and with challenges coming up at Troy and with Texas Tech coming to Stillwater for an early conference opener, building confidence is also high on the needs list.
My guess is a competitive first quarter with OSU leading 17-3 at the half and finsihing it off with three second-half touchdowns. A score like this would be acceptable.
Final Score at Boone Pickens Stadium
Oklahoma State 38, Florida Atlantic 6
OSU-Florida Atlantic Matchups & Prediction
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