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Florida Atlantic Owls vs. Miami Hurricanes Preview and Prediction

Mark Walton

Mark Walton

Mark Richt’s first game as the head coach of the Miami Hurricanes probably went better than he even imagined it would go. Miami scored 42 points in the third quarter and defeated the Florida A&M Rattlers 70-3.

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In Week 2, the Hurricanes will be facing a familiar foe in the Florida Atlantic Owls. In their season opener, FAU outlasted the Southern Illinois Salukis 38-30 behind three touchdowns from Jason Driskel (two passing, one rushing). 

Last season in Boca Raton, the Owls trailed the Hurricanes 20-17 at halftime. In the second half however, Miami outscored FAU 24-3 to cruise to the 44-20 victory.

Saturday will be the third meeting all-time between FAU and Miami. Besides last season's victory, the Hurricanes beat the Owls 34-6 in 2013.

FAU at Miami

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 10, 6 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN3

Spread: Miami -24

Three Things to Watch

1. Hurricanes Rushing Attack
While Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya receives a lot of attention and deservedly so, it was the team’s ground game that stole the show in the win against Florida A&M. Miami running backs Mark Walton, Joseph Yearby and Gus Edwards all finished with more than 100 yards rushing. That was the first time a trio of Miami running backs have eclipsed the century mark since 1987.

Starter Walton (116 yards, TD) and Yearby (105 yards and touchdown runs of one and 64 yards) ran all over the Rattlers defense through the first three quarters. Then Edwards relieved them late in the game and had a 74-yard touchdown run of his own. Even in limited action, Edwards posted 106 yards rushing.

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Against Southern Illinois last week, the Owls gave up a total over 143 yards rushing against a group of less talented ball carriers. FAU will need to contain the run to prevent big plays from happening early in the game.

2. Jason Driskel
Driskel is arguably the Owls' biggest weapon on offense. Not only can he make plays with his arm, but he also can be a threat with his legs. Against Southern Illinois, Driskel finished 23-of-31 for 287 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 41 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.

In the game against the Hurricanes last season, Driskel finished the game with negative yardage (-8) on three carries. So Miami will once again need to contain his ability to make plays out of the pocket.

Many of Driskel's biggest plays against Southern Illinois came from when the original play broke down, so Miami’s front seven will have to be disciplined and maintain their assignments.

3. Hurricanes Defense
Under new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, the Hurricanes' defense put on quite a show against Florida A&M, allowing only 197 yards of total offense. FAU should present more of a challenge, but Miami’s defense has steadily been showing improvement, dating back to the end of last season.

The Hurricanes have not allowed a touchdown in the last six quarters going back to the 2015 Sun Bowl against Washington State. Diaz was very proud of the effort his team displayed in the season opener.

“I was very impressed with the way we played up front, and I think what we wanted to be as a defense in terms of the way we’re getting our feet across the line of scrimmage, being disruptive making plays in the backfield,” Diaz said. “It looked for most of the game they had a hard time getting the ball back to the line of scrimmage against our rush defense. “

Last week against Southern Illinois, FAU rushed for 191 yards with 128 of them courtesy of running back Gregory Howell Jr. FAU likes to run the football in order to set up the pass, so that’s something the Hurricanes will have to be aware of on Saturday.

Final Analysis

College Football Top 25: Miami

No one is predicting another 70-3 blowout by the Hurricanes on Saturday, but Miami has the advantage in all three phases. FAU has a good enough offense to keep the game close with Jason Driskel under center, but the Hurricanes’ athletic defense should be able to force a turnover or two during the game.

FAU defensive end Trey Hendrickson is a player Brad Kaaya and the rest of the Hurricanes’ offense should be aware of at all times, especially the line. If Miami can protect Kaaya and create running lanes for Mark Walton and Joseph Yearby, the Hurricanes should enjoy pretty smooth sailing against the Owls.

Prediction: Miami 51, Florida Atlantic 17

— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.