Florida Atlantic vs. North Texas is a rematch of the 2017 Conference USA Championship Game, but both teams find themselves with disappointing 3-3 records in CUSA play and have no shot of making another appearance in the title game this year. Both teams are still in the hunt for a postseason game however, so there should be motivation on both sides.
The Owls (5-5) come into this one on a two-game winning streak, having routed both FIU and Western Kentucky by 49-14 and 34-15 scores respectively. They also have piled up 1,172 yards combined in those games, 754 on the ground, spurring a renewed confidence.
The Mean Green have gone 7-3 overall but have to be kicking themselves after blowing a 28-0 first-half lead in the 34-31 loss to Old Dominion last week. Mason Fine and the offense looked to be clicking on all cylinders in building up that four-touchdown lead, only to fall apart in the second half. UNT managed just 161 yards after that and also lost an interception, a fumble and were held on downs three different times.
The two teams met twice last season with FAU winning both games by a combined score of 110-48.
Florida Atlantic at North Texas
Kickoff: Thursday, Nov. 15 at 9:30 p.m. ET
TV: CBS Sports Network
Spread: North Texas -3
Three Things to Watch
1. The star power
Both teams feature fringe (or maybe very fringe) Heisman contenders in Florida Atlantic running back Devin Singletary and North Texas quarterback Mason Fine. Singletary comes into this game with 1,169 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns, marking his third straight 1,000-yard season. In the wins over FIU and Western Kentucky, Singletary ran for a combined 332 yards and five scores. In addition, Singletary now has 64 career rushing touchdowns, which is good for sixth in NCAA history. On the other side, Fine became the North Texas career passing leader in the loss to Old Dominion and is sixth in the country with 3,119 passing yards while boasting a TD-to-INT ratio of 23-to-2. His 8,743 career passing yards broke a 24-year old record previously held by Mitch Maher.
2. The turnover battle
To be fair, turnovers are ALWAYS a vital thing to keep an eye on. But it is more pronounced for the Owls because when they’ve lost it has been due to having butterfingers. In their five losses the Owls have suffered 13 turnovers (while gaining only two). In their five wins, they have just five turnovers. North Texas is 14th in the FBS in turnover margin, gaining 18 on the season while losing just eight.
3. Will it be a rush or not?
FAU has been a running machine at times this season, currently sitting at 11th nationally at 252 rushing yards per game. In the last two games alone both Singletary and Kerrith Whyte Jr. have surpassed the century mark. Singletary may be the main attraction, but Whyte hasn’t been far behind in terms of production, rushing for 165 and 164 yards in the Owls' last two games. But here’s the catch: North Texas has been miserly against the run. The Mean Green are 12th in the country, holding opponents to just 103.5 rushing yards per game. If they can shut down FAU’s ground game and for the Owls into their sometimes-on/sometimes-off passing game, advantage UNT. Remember the 13 turnovers in FAU's five losses mentioned earlier? Ten of those were via interceptions.
Before the season began the Conference USA officials selected this game to fill the CBS Sports Network Thursday night game anticipating these two would be the best matchup of the week. But both teams have underwhelmed in a season of high expectations.
Another big key to this game is the fact that this will be one of those short-week Thursday games which never bodes well for the team that has to travel. Florida Atlantic will have only one full day of practice this week and then will travel from Boca Raton, to Denton, Texas, which requires a couple of bus rides and a couple of plane rides.
North Texas has the better defense heading into this one, ranking 20th nationally at just 20.3 points per game allowed. Compared to FAU, which is 89th in the country at 31 points per game. Having the better defense in a short week game is a huge advantage.
Prediction: North Texas 38, Florida Atlantic 24
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.
(Top photo courtesy of FAU Athletics)