#27 Florida Atlantic 2018 Football Preview

Florida Atlantic Owls
Overall Rank: #27
#1 Conference USA
 Florida Atlantic Logo
Lane Kiffin had an outstanding first season as the head coach of Florida Atlantic. The Owls went 11-3 and won the Conference USA Championship. It was not easy at the beginning with a 1-3 start, but after beating Middle Tennessee 38-20 on September 30th, they ran the table the rest of the season. There was a fair amount of turnover within the coaching staff and the loss of some key players. However, the Owls have enough coming back on the defensive side of the ball to still be the favorite in Conference USA.
2017 Record: 11-3, 8-0
2017 Bowl: Boca Raton Bowl vs. Akron (50-3 W)
Coach: Lane Kiffin (11-3 at Florida Atlantic, 46-24 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Charlie Weis Jr.
Defensive Coordinator: Tony Pecoraro
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Devin Singletary, RB, 1,920 yards
Passing: Devin Singletary, RB, 12 yards
Receiving: Willie Wright, WR, 657 yards
Tackles: Azeez Al-Shaair, MLB, 147
Sacks: Two players with 6
Interceptions: Jalen Young, SS, 7
Other Key Returnees: QB De’Andre Johnson, WR Jovon Durante, LT Reggie Bain, RT Brando Watton, DE Hunter Snyder, DT Stephen Leggett, DE Leighton McCarthy, OLB Rashad Smith, NB Herb Miller, CB Shelton Lewis, CB Chris Tooley, TE Harrison Bryant
Key Losses:  QB Jason Driskel, C Antonyo Woods, LG Roman Fernandez, RG Jakobi Smith, DT Jeremiah Taleni, K Greg Joseph, P Ryan Rickel
De’Andre Johnson is the frontrunner to take over at quarterback this season. The key for Johnson will be staying healthy as he missed most of 2017 with blood clots in his arm. Running back Devin Singletary will be the key to the offense as Singletary flourished in 2017, rushing for 1,920 yards and 32 touchdowns. West Virginia transfer Jovon Durante is eligible to play after sitting out last season and he join Willie Wright to help jump start the passing game this season. The offensive line will be a bit of a work in progress this fall as the Owls lost three players to graduation from that group. Look for the offensive line to get in a nice rhythm by the start of conference play.
This unit should be the strength of the team as they return almost everyone from an effective group in 2017. Rashad Smith and Hunter Snyder combined for 12 sacks in 2017 and should be primed to match or surpass that number this fall. Azeez Al-Shaair was tremendous at middle linebacker and recorded 147 tackles last season. Jalen Young is a ballhawk at strong safety as he had seven interceptions and it will be interesting to see if teams try to avoid him in 2018. Chris Tooley and Shelton Lewis are back at cornerback and they should see an increased amount of opportunities to get more interceptions this season. Vladimir Rivas should end up taking over both roles on special teams of kicker and punter after being pushed in camp with some competition.
The Bottom Line:
Florida Atlantic will be on the national stage once again with Aatrip to Norman, Oklahoma to take on the Sooners will start off the 2018 season. Air Force will travel to Boca Raton for the home opener. On September 22nd, the Owls will head up to Orlando to take on UCF in what will be a big game for in-state bragging rights on the recruiting trail. The conference schedule is balanced as two road games at Marshall and North Texas should be the most difficult ones to win. Louisiana Tech and Western Kentucky will be tricky home games, but Florida Atlantic should have enough talent to win those. If the offense can come together with Johnson at quarterback, then the Owls should be explosive enough to score 35-40 points per game to help the defense. In the end, look for Florida Atlantic to win 10-11 games and another Conference USA championship in year two of Lane Kiffin as head coach.
Projected Bowl: Heart of Dallas Bowl
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 285.3 (6th in nation, 1st in Conference)
Passing Offense: 213.1 (80, 8)
Total Offense: 498.4 (9, 1)
Scoring Offense: 40.6 (8, 1)
Rushing Defense: 158.9 (57, 5)
Pass Defense: 230.7 (74, 11)
Total Defense: 389.6 (63, 8)
Scoring Defense: 22.7 (34, 3)
Turnover Margin: 0.93 (9, 2)
Sacks: 2.71 (24, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 1.14 (12, 3)