The Florida Atlantic Owls have spent much of their existence as a doormat Power 5 teams would use as a glorified scrimmage to get their legs under them to start the year. That’s probably what Joe Castiglione thought he was getting when he scheduled this game. This one was announced when Florida Atlantic was coming off of a three-year stretch where it went a combined 9-27. The Owls surpassed that three-year win total last season alone after one of the most surprising hires of the 2017 offseason paid off in spades.
Lane Kiffin turned a historically-irrelevant program around almost overnight. He did it by taking a lot of flyers on junior college players and signing what seems like the entire cast of Last Chance U. The second chapter of the Kiffin era at FAU launches Saturday when the Owls come to Norman to take on the No. 7 Oklahoma Sooners in the season opener.
Date: Saturday, September 1
Time & TV: 11:00 AM CT on FOX
Spread: Oklahoma -21
Our first podcast (feat. Allen Kenney and Cyrus Smith)
Vegas currently has the over/under for this game at 72 points. It’s a matchup between the No. 1 and No. 9 ranked offenses from 2017, so expect to see a lot of scoring. It’s also a matchup between the No. 67 and No. 63 ranked defenses from last season. Simply put, this game will be fun as hell.
Lane Kiffin vs. Mike Stoops
If those two names next to each other don’t make you a little bit nervous as a Sooner fan, I don’t know what will. Some figured Mike Stoops wouldn’t return in 2018 following another disappointing season from a defensive standpoint, but he is still here nonetheless. One of OU’s biggest defensive flaws last season was a propensity to give up big plays on the ground. It burned them several times against Georgia and could be a problem again Saturday. FAU running back Devin Singletary finished fifth in the nation in total offense last year, averaging over 150 yards per game by himself.
Saturday will also be the debut of FAU’s 25-year-old offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr. Yes, you read that correctly — Lane Kiffin hired a 25-year-old to run his offense. Weis is the son of Kansas coaching legend (lol) Charlie Weis and seems to be well-respected among the coaching community despite his youth and inexperience (although it does help that a guy like Lane Kiffin is running the show and is ultimately in charge of the O). As I previously mentioned, his first assignment is Mike Stoops, so this could get interesting.
It’s Kyler’s team now
The most obvious knock on Oklahoma headed into this season is the departure of the greatest college quarterback of all time in Baker Mayfield. There is no way to completely replace a player of Mayfield’s caliber, but Kyler Murray is about as good of a follow-up as you can ask for. Murray was the No. 1 QB recruit in the class of 2015 and appeared in eight games as a true freshman at Texas A&M before transferring to Oklahoma after Kevin Sumlin failed to settle on one starting quarterback for the second consecutive year.
Murray may not be quite the passer that Mayfield was, but his speed and mobility make him a different kind of threat for opposing defenses. Expect to see a lot of designed QB runs and run-pass-options this season. OU returns a loaded crop of skill position players highlighted by Rodney Anderson, Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and CeeDee Lamb. The talent at running back and receiver coupled with an experienced offensive line should make it so Murray doesn’t have to be the entire offense. Additionally, is there a more QB-friendly offense in all of football? I don’t think so. Kyler will be just fine. By the way, he’s a better leader than many may realize.
True freshman nickel Brendan Riles-Hadley is the most anticipated defensive recruit to arrive in Norman in quite some time. He very well might already be OU’s most talented defensive player. His role role will enable him to make an impact in all aspects of the game. Expect to see him drop in coverage quite a bit, but he could also be utilized as a run stopper (he is quite strong in spite of his measurables) or even as an occasional pass rusher. It’s rare to see a coaching staff have this much faith in a true freshman, but if you’ve seen Bookie play, you know he’s the real deal.
Both teams will be able to move the ball and score points. FAU doesn’t have much defense to speak of, and I think OU will have just enough to make a few stops and distance themselves in the second half. I could see the Owls keeping it close early, but don’t expect it to last.
Oklahoma 48, FAU 30