Football season is upon us! FINALLY! Your Nebraska Cornhuskers will be taking the field against the Florida Atlantic Owls on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.
We've heard (and possibly) paid attention to these Owls as former Nebraska DC Carl Pelini was the HC for a while there. However, you and I need a refresher.
For that, this week we've enlisted the help of Steven Gonzalez, who writes for the SBNation community Underdog Dynasty. They cover all non-traditional FBS schools and conferences, and Steven is the man when it comes to FAU sports.
Gonzalez already gave his idea to what could happen on UD, but we ask him the tough questions here.
1. Well, this was an interesting offseason for the Owls program, no? Finishing winning your last 4 games after the resignation of Carl Pelini and Pete Rekstis. What’s the tone been through the summertime in Boca Raton with the team?
This was definitely a hectic offseason. Between being glossed over for a bowl game, the Pelini saga and the introduction of coach Partridge, I believe the entire FAU community is more than ready for this season to begin. Unfortunately, Carl did a lot to separate the fanbase from the program. It took a few months time, but Partridge has already mended relationships with the students and football alumni.
As far as the team goes, the players seem to be responding well to the new staff and have embraced coach P's charismatic attitude. You can tell this team is ready to work and turn the corner from the black hole of bowl-less seasons.
2. What are you expecting from Charlie Partridge, as this is his first rodeo as a Head Coach?
As is customary with most first-year head coaches, I am expecting coach Partridge to go through the typical growing pains at first. With such a top heavy schedule for the Owls, any new coach would struggle right out of the gate. Partridge has already built a reputation as a sound recruiter and I think we can all expect him to treat games the same way. From the right time to take a safety to where to fall down for a last second field goal attempt, the Owls should be much more prepared for their first game of the season, compared to last year.
3. Even though there was an upheaval with the staff, your OC Brian Wright will be back. With QB Jaquez Johnson coming back also, what’s the expectation of where this offense could go?
Ahh, the offense. Probably my favorite aspect of this team. Well, the expectation is that Jaquez Johnson, William Dukes and the rest of the offense will pick up right where they left off last season. The continuity with coach Wright should prove to be tremendous for Jaquez's development and the skill positions are finally healthy across the board. The ground game is ready to take the next step, but FAU can only make a run for the C-USA title if they can complete some passes.
4. The Owls D lost Rekstis, but will be led by Roc Bellantoni. The Defense itself was the best in Conference USA, so how is Bellantoni going to attempt to keep up what’s been working?
Thankfully, the Owls return three key starters on defense: Brandin Bryant up front, Andrae Kirk in the middle and D'Joun Smith on the outside. This should make coach Roc's job much easier, but it is going to be nearly impossible for this defense to match last year's production. Bellantoni has already stated that he wants to keep the terminology and schemes basic at first, but I can imagine this will evolve as the season progresses. Last season's replacement for Rekstis, Jovan Dewitt (now with Army), implemented the same philosophy when the Owls went on their four game run to close out the year.
5. Be honest.... we’re disappointed about this not being the Pelini Bowl. Are you?
I am fairly disappointed that this won't be a tale of two Pelinis, but as an FAU fan, you have to believe the Owls are finally in the right hands. No offense to Carl, but a coach from Youngstown, Ohio would have to really go above and beyond to succeed in south Florida. If Partridge, a Plantation, FL native, can continue to successfully recruit the area, there's no reason why the Owls can't compete for a C-USA championship every year.
6. Give us some names to watch for on Saturday afternoon that you did not mention above.
Lucky Whitehead, Tony Moore and Trevon Coley
Lucky is finally healthy after a 2013 season that never really took off. He's definitely the x-factor this offense and if he has a big game, expect this one to remain close. Tony Moore was a cast-off during the Pelini run and has experienced a wonderful resurgence this offseason. There may be a slight running back-by-committee approach during the first half, but expect Moore to take the majority of snaps by the end of the game. Trevon Coley and Brandin Bryant will undoubtedly have the biggest task on Saturday. If they can't stop the run up front, this one could get away from the Owls in a hurry.
7. Alright... season opener on BTN. What’s your prediction for the game and what do you think the final score will be?
As much as the members of #OwlNation would love to see the boys return to Boca with a win, I just can't see it happening. FAU had difficulty stopping the run last season and with potential Heisman candidate, Ameer Abdullah, on the other side of the field, the Owls will be on their heels all day long. This team displayed tremendous resiliency to close out the season with four wins and I believe that carries over into the first half in Lincoln. Unfortunately, the Huskers are too deep and Florida Atlantic sluggishly rolls into Alabama at 0-1.
Prediction: Nebraska 31, FAU 14
We thank Steven for his contribution, and he & I encourage you all to follow him on the twitter machine.
Also, make sure to keep your eye on the Underdog Dynasty site. It's becoming a great tool to see what's going on with all the smaller FBS schools and such.