More pain

Sophomore+running+back+Michael+Dyer+bolts+past+a+fallen+Tennessee+Chattanooga+defender+in+a+game+last+November+in+Auburn.+Photo+by+Tod+Van+Ernst

Todd J. Van Emst

Sophomore running back Michael Dyer bolts past a fallen Tennessee Chattanooga defender in a game last November in Auburn. Photo by Tod Van Ernst

Zack Duarte

Sophomore running back Michael Dyer bolts past a fallen Tennessee Chattanooga defender in a game last November in Auburn. Photo by Todd Van Ernst.

The biggest task of FAU’s season lies in Auburn, Alabama, where the defending national champions will host the Owls.

After being outscored 85-3 in their first two games of the 2011 season, FAU (0-2) will look to put up a victory  against the team that ruled the college world in 2010. Most experts predict a blowout, but Auburn has been a vulnerable team in the post-Cam Newton era.

In week one, Auburn needed a miraculous on-side kick and two touchdowns in the final two minutes of the game to beat Utah State, a team that had the same amount of wins as FAU last season— four.

In Auburn’s second game, they stopped Mississippi State on the 1-inch line with four seconds left to win  41-34. Auburn’s offense has been unstoppable, but its defense hasn’t been able to stop opposing scoring threats.

FAU’s offense has struggled immensely under junior quarterback Graham Wilbert. The Owls are ranked second to last (118th) in the nation in points per game, averaging only 1.5 points. The Owls are also ranked 116th in total passing yards, with 177, and dead last in rushing yards with only 52.

Former Auburn running back Mario Fannin secures the ball and tries to bull his way past a Tennessee Chattanooga defensive back. Photo by Todd Van Ernst.

FAU’s defense hasn’t fared any better. The Owls are ranked 114th in scoring defense, allowing 42.5 points per game. After implementing a new 3-4 defense to combat spread style offenses, Kurt Van Valkenburgh’s defense has failed to stop either of the two opponents the Owls have faced.

Not all the blame can be put on the defense though. Against Michigan State, the Owls’ offense only managed one first-down the entire game, keeping FAU’s defense on the field for almost 43 minutes.

If the Owls want to have any chance against the Tigers, the offense is going to have to figure out its struggles. FAU isn’t bigger or faster than most of the teams it will face.So the team has to either change up its offense and start using gimmick plays like screens, bubble screens, slants and reverses, or continue to look completely outmatched against better teams, like they have been in their first two games this season.

The Owls will be Auburn’s last opponent before the Tigers start playing SEC divisional opponents, so there is the potential of Auburn looking past FAU. After hosting the Owls, Auburn will face South Carolina, Arkansas, Florida and LSU. Three of those teams are ranked in the Top-25 in the country.

In order for the Owls to compete, they must find a way to use senior running back, Alfred Morris, more than they have been. Morris almost had back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons in 2009 and 2010 for FAU, but this year, with a young offensive line protecting him, he has only managed 37 total yards.

FAU’s defense will need to prevent the big play, which has plagued them in both games, and stop the Tigers on third down. The Gators converted seven of ten third-down attempts and the Spartans converted eight of 18 for a combined efficiency rating of 53.5 percent.

The Owls will have two weeks to prepare for the Tigers, so expect better execution on both sides of the football, but do not expect the scoreboard to reflect a different outcome than the first two games in the 2011 season.

The Prediction

Auburn 37 Florida Atlantic 10

The Game

When: Saturday Sept. 24, 2011
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST
Location: Jordan-Hare
Stadium (87,451) Auburn, Alabama
TV: ESPN3, Sun Sports
Radio: ESPN 760