Football preview: FAU will kick off new season with loss to Miami Hurricanes

Mohamed Abdihakim

Who: FAU at University of Miami

When: Friday, Aug. 30 at 8 p.m.

Where: Sun Life Stadium

TV: ESPNU

Radio: ESPN 106.3

Prediction: Miami 36-14

Following a jam-packed offseason, FAU kicks off a new football season against the Miami Hurricanes on Friday.

The opener marks the beginning of several firsts for the Owls –– first game as members of Conference USA, first televised game (one of seven this year), first meeting with Miami and first look at the team’s new uniforms.

Perhaps most importantly, this will be the first time FAU’s most recent recruits get any meaningful action. A busy but successful few months of recruitment led to a crop of new talent that FAU head coach Carl Pelini considers the “best in school history.”

Unfortunately for the Owls, none of that will do much to help them prevail over the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Hurricanes, who are preseason favorites to win the ACC’s Coastal Division.

Miami boasts a powerful rushing attack, led by sophomore running back Duke Johnson, one of college football’s rising stars and most dynamic playmakers.

Johnson’s ability will be a quality test for an Owls defense that struggled to contain opponents’ ground games last year. In 2012, FAU gave up a cumulative 2,657 yards on the ground –– over 221 yards per game.

Although FAU is returning eight starting defenders in 2013, their previous defensive weaknesses will be looked at closely.

Last season, opposing teams converted on fourth downs at a 77 percent success rate. The end result was a tired and susceptible defense, which allowed 30.8 points per contest. Conversely, the Hurricanes’ offense put up 31.4 points per game in 2012, good for 49th in the country.

On FAU’s offense, the main storyline (and question mark) is the quarterback position.

After surprisingly moving Melvin German to wide receiver, there’s no telling how Pelini plans to employ his QBs.

Owls offensive coordinator Brian Wright has hinted that four quarterbacks –– German, sophomore Jaquez Johnson, and freshmen Greg Hankerson and D.J. Juste –– could all see the field in various packages.

Johnson and Hankerson are considered the favorites to win the starting job.

No matter who’s under center, they will be protected by a rebuilt offensive line, which features three new starters. Miami’s defensive front could cause protection problems for an Owls’ line that may still need time to gel.

If FAU’s quarterback has time, he should be able to connect with one of the key receiving weapons –– wide receiver William Dukes and tight end Nexon Dorvilus, who earned preseason recognition from C-USA.

As for running backs, FAU returns the senior trio of Jonathan Wallace, Martese Jackson and Damian Fortner.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see FAU have some success on offense, but they’re highly unlikely to generate enough to match the Hurricanes’ output.

Though the Owls will begin the season with a loss, this game will serve as a good measuring stick for a program looking to rise up through the ranks of college football.