5 Reasons Why FAU Will Win the Sun Belt

1. ExperienceCoach Howard Schnellenberger took the nation’s brunt of FAU jokes the last two years as his team played the college football elite. In 2004 FAU won 9 and lost 3 in their last regular season in Division I-AA. They even beat Division I Bowl participant Hawaii, traveling to the Pacific to shock the Rainbow Warriors 35-28 in overtime. The majority of that 2004 FAU team graduated, and Schnellenberger moved the FAU program into the elite of college football, Division I-A status. In 2005 and 2006, the Owls became the laughing stock of college football. Fast forward to 2007 and Schnellenberger has 18 starters returning, most of whom played a majority of the snaps the last two seasons. FAU, right now, is the most experienced team in the Sun Belt Conference. While I only predict them to win one non-conference game this season, (they will destroy University of Minnesota on September 15, 2007 at Dolphins Stadium, and hang until the final whistle with Kentucky on September 29) FAU will dominate the Sun Belt with their wealth of experience. –DD

CoachingThe Owls have the clear-cut best coach in the conference. Howard Schnellenberger brings a wealth of experience, knowledge and recruiting savvy that is unmatched by his conference counterparts. No other coach in the conference boasts a resume like Schnelly’s: He is the only Sun Belt coach with a national championship ring on his finger. In contrast, North Texas just hired a high school coach to lead their team. The assistant coaching staff led by Offensive Coordinator Gary Nord brings experience to a start-up program. Nord was head coach at Texas El Paso before coming over to work at FAU. Defensive Coordinator Kirk Hoza has been with FAU since the program’s inception. –JW

Speed and AthleticismSouth Florida recruiting is synonymous with speed, and speed kills. The vast majority of FAU players come from Florida, and many of those from South Florida. You won’t find many faster than wide receiver Avery Holley or running back Charles Pierre. On defense, speed and athleticism are abundant as well. Versatile lineman Josh Pinnick terrorizes quarterbacks upfront. Ball hawks Cergile Sincere and Frantz Joseph anchor the linebackers. Taheem Acevado and Kris Bartels fly to the ball in the secondary. Bartels, one of the smallest players on the defense, is known as the team’s hardest hitter. –JW

AmbitionWhile it seems that many of the Sun Belt’s teams are perfectly content to remain in the worst conference in Division I-A football, FAU is aiming higher. Schnellenberger has always said that he wants to take this program to a national championship level. While that might seem like crazy talk at this point, at least FAU isn’t going to settle in the Sun Belt and call it a day. The Cinderella story of Boise State’s Fiesta Bowl victory last year, coupled with the meteoric rises of start-up programs like Louisville and South Florida, give Schnellenberger’s aspirations validity and point FAU on a higher trajectory than its rivals (excluding FIU). –JW

DefenseThe secondary is the best in the Sun Belt Conference and possibly the whole Southeast. Cornerback Corey Small leads the way for this group. In 2006, Small had four interceptions in one game against Arkansas State, and gained a ton of experience in non-conference games. Safety Kris Bartels is the hardest hitter on the team and plays the game of college football with the true passion it deserves. Free safety Taheem Acevedo brings five years of experience to the table with a knack to get involved in every play. Cornerback Greg Joseph finally gets his chance to shine after two seasons as polished playmaker on Special Teams for FAU. –DD

Dave DiPino recently graduated from FAU and served two years as sports editor. Jay Warman takes his place at the UP. You can read Jay’s blog at upsports.blogspot.com