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USF-FAU Preview

After going 0-2 for the first time in school history, the Bulls look to avoid an all-time low in a game against equally winless Florida Atlantic.

Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Last week against Michigan State, USF's defense proved to us that they are capable of stopping a running back before the first down marker. It provided a glimmer of hope that this team may yet actually win a game. That seems most likely tonight, against an FAU team that has struggled in recent years to make any noise at all in the state of Florida. The Owls are now armed with second-year head coach Carl Pelini, who took the Owls to a 3-9 record last year, and a new conference, being one of the recent additions to Conference USA. This season, FAU opened with a 34-6 loss at Miami on the first Friday night of the season, then after a week off they scored their first touchdown of the season in garbage time, but not much else, in a 31-13 loss of their C-USA debut against East Carolina.The two games exposed weakness that it appears USF should be able to take advantage of tonight.

The Owls have been employing a multiple quarterback method in their offense, mostly because there is no clear starter (maybe we're not so different after all). We will likely be seeing what the team did the previous two weeks in alternating series between  sophomore Jacquez Johnson and freshman Greg Hankerson, neither of whom has very impressive stats, though Johnson does tend to be more of a dual-threat option. What doesn't help is the questionable play of the offensive line, allowing five sacks to Miami and six to East Carolina, three of which to one defensive end. If that play continues, Aaron Lynch should be able to make them pay dearly. Fun stat: In the first quarter of FAU's first two games, the team has thrown for a total of seven yards.

As for rushing, RB Johnathan Wallace is the primary guy in the backfield, averaging 4.4 yards per carry against ECU. FAU coach Carl Pelini told the Sun Sentinel that he wants his quarterbacks to be more relaxed. For that to be possible, they are going to rely heavily on establishing a solid run attack early in order to give the QBs time to develop their own plays.

Defensively, the stats clearly show that FAU struggles against a passing attack. Fortunately for them, that is something USF doesn't have. ECU QB Shane Carden went 17 for 25 for 191 yards and 2 TDs. FAU does pride themselves on snapping Miami QB Stephen Morris's 156-pass streak without an INT in the opener, though. The Owls did struggle, however, at the line of scrimmage as well, allowing Miami's Storm Johnson to  gain 186 yards on the ground. Pelini is more confident this week that the team will be able to stick to the game plan and contain Marcus Shaw, who is currently averaging 7 yards per carry.

Overall, it appears that the Bulls are more than capable of finally breaking through and getting Taggart's first win in Tampa. USF is a 13-point favorite in the 7:00 kickoff game, and all signs point to that being a real possibility. Pretty much everyone except this guy is sure that USF will prevail over the Owls. For that to be true, USF needs to stick to a good run game and solid defensive play in the trenches. If all goes as it has looked in FAU's previous two games, Aaron Lynch should have a career day today.