Football Preview: Owls will handily defeat FIU on Friday, become eligible for possible bowl

Wesley Wright

Owls interim head coach Brian Wright rings the Taylor Victory Bell for his first time after the Owls win over NMSU.
Owls interim head coach Brian Wright rings the Taylor Victory Bell for his first time after the Owls win over NMSU. Photo by: Max Jackson

Who: Florida Atlantic University vs. Florida International University (Boca Raton, FL)

When: Friday, Nov. 29th at 3 PM ET

Where: FAU Football Stadium

TV: FS1

Radio: ESPN 106.3

Prediction: Florida Atlantic 34, Florida International 14

By Wesley Wright

Heading into the the last game of the season, FAU football has a shot at bowl eligibility if they can defeat their biggest rivals on Friday.

Florida Atlantic (5-6) takes on Florida International University (1-10) on Nov. 29 with an opportunity to make themselves eligible for a possible postseason bowl.

The Owls are just one win from bowl eligibility, even with all the hoopla surrounding the Pelini scandal and starting the season with a 2-6 record. A triumph come Friday also means bringing the Owls to .500 on the season and four consecutive wins for the first time in program history.

“We have to remain focused. We had a great team meeting this morning and went through the history of this football game and what it meant,” says Interim Head Coach Brian Wright in his latest press conference. “I told them how important it was to our university because I know how important it is to the players here.  So we were not going to hide the fact that this was an important football game.”

Standing in their way is an FIU team that has an absolutely awful record this season, even suffering a 21 point home loss to FBS opponent Bethune-Cookman in September.

The Owls have the 20th ranked total defense in the nation and are likely to dominate an FIU offense managing just 11 points per game. Under center, the FIU Panthers have been especially abysmal. Quarterbacks Jake Medlock and E.J. Hilliard have combined for more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (7) this season.

The FAU offense also has found its groove, totaling 130 yards in their last three games.

Starting QB Jaquez Johnson — already a solid runner — improved passing the ball accumulating seven touchdowns in the last three games.

Running Backs Jay Warren and Damian Fortner have been effective in compensating for the loss of starting running back Jonathan Wallace, who’s been out for the last two games with a leg injury.

FIU is surrendering 430 yards and 38.5 points per game, placing them 93rd and 115th in the nation in those respective categories. Expect the Owls to move the ball on the ground early and open up the play action game so Johnson and the receiving core can exploit.

On paper, FIU looks to be a very meek opponent — but rivalry games are much more than records and statistics. Make no mistake — ample effort will come Friday afternoon from the men of FIU. Though their season is in shambles, this team would be delighted to spoil the Owls’ bowl aspirations.

Effort alone does not decide games though. Nothing about this year’s FIU football team suggests that they are remotely capable of defeating the Owls. Trust that Interim Head Coach Brian Wright — who took over mid-season and accumulated a 3-0 record with the Owls — will have his men ready to play. FAU has too much on the line to come out flat and will grab its sixth win versus their regional rival.

“We’ve talked about winning the right now moment and winning the week.  We can only control what we control and that’s Friday,” Wright says in regard to his players and their impending bowl eligibility. “We have mentioned that our hopes and our dreams are all still alive so our guys understand what that means.”