The worst loss of the Lane Kiffin era is in the rear view as Florida Atlantic looks to get its first win of the 2018 season as it returns to South Florida to take on Air Force. With big expectations to start the year, the Owls were handily defeated last week by a top-five Oklahoma team in Norman by the score of 63-14.
The Owls will look to fly higher than the Falcons in Week 2. The contest is the first for Air Force this season against FBS competition. The Falcons opened the season with a 38-0 shutout of Stony Brook, an FCS school.
While FAU had a banner year in 2017 with an 11-3 record, Air Force suffered its first losing season since '13 by going 5-7. Now in their 12th year under head coach Troy Calhoun, the Falcons look to start 2-0 for the third time in four years. This will be the first meeting between the schools.
Air Force at Florida Atlantic
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 8 at 2 p.m. ET
Spread: Florida Atlantic -9
What to Watch For
1. Devin Singletary vs. the Air Force run defense
A 5-foot-9 junior running back from Deerfield Beach, Singletary will look to get things back on track this week after being held to fewer than four yards per carry last week against Oklahoma for the first time since late October 2016. Singletary is a big play waiting to happen and proved that last season by leading the nation with 32 rushing touchdowns. Singletary’s 1,920 yards rushing ranked fourth nationally and his 6.4 yards per carry ranked 25th.
Last season, Air Force ranked 123rd against the run, allowing more than 243 yards on the ground per game. The Falcons also yielded more yards per carry than any team in the country. Although the competition was suspect in Week 1, the Falcons held Stony Brook to just 30 yards on 30 carries. The front seven for Air Force, led by linebacker Kyle Floyd, is very young.
2. Quarterback play
The ground games headline the offense for both Air Force and Florida Atlantic, but which quarterback plays better could be a huge difference-maker on Saturday. Oklahoma transfer Chris Robison had a tough time getting much going against his former school last week and will look to make plays against an Air Force team that held Stony Brook to just 45 passing yards and had linebacker Kyle Johnson return an interception 32 yards for a touchdown. Former Florida State quarterback De’Andre Johnson also will see time behind center for the Owls.
In Air Force’s option attack, senior Arion Worthman is much more dangerous as a runner than a passer. Worthman ran for 66 yards and a score last week while going just 2-for-8 passing for 29 yards against FCS competition. Worthman is under 50 percent when it comes to completion rate for his career. The Owls, who allowed 334 yards through the air last week, will be best served to make Worthman beat them as a passer.
3. Big plays
Forcing the opponent to be methodical on Saturday will be a key, but probably more vital for Air Force. Last season, Florida Atlantic ranked 12th nationally in plays of 20 yards or longer, eighth in plays of 30 yards or longer, fourth in plays of 40 yards or longer and led the nation in plays of 60 yards or longer. Both teams managed just two plays of 25 yards or more in the season opener.
With teams combining to go just 12-for-36 on third down last week, chunk plays will be important. Although it’s not Air Force’s forte offensively, FAU was much more susceptible to giving up the big play last season.
It’s tough to know what to expect coming into Week 2 for both teams. Florida Atlantic was simply overmatched against an Oklahoma team with national championship aspirations while Air Force got very little resistance from an FCS school. The trip from Colorado Springs to South Florida is a long one for the Falcons and FAU will have the home-field, climate and speed advantage in this one. Sheer pride for Air Force should keep this one close most of the way, but the Owls will eventually pull away for their first win of the season.
Prediction: Florida Atlantic 41, Air Force 24
(Top photo courtesy of FAU Athletics)