For the first time, Florida Atlantic and Ohio State will meet on the football field. While some of the Buckeyes' luster may have been lost with Urban Meyer not on the sidelines to confront his former SEC nemesis Lane Kiffin (Tennessee's head coach in 2009), the spotlight will shine brightly upon new Ohio State head coach Ryan Day. Day served as Ohio State's offensive coordinator for the past two seasons, but this game against the Florida Atlantic Owls will mark his debut as the Buckeyes' head coach (aside from a 3-0 stint as interim coach in 2018).
Florida Atlantic is coming off a disappointing 5-7 season in 2018. Three losses by a total of seven points marked the difference between a losing season and a probable bowl berth. Despite losing some talented players to the 2019 NFL Draft, such as RB Devin Singletary, Florida Atlantic is among the favorites to contend for the Conference USA title this season.
Talent is in abundance at Ohio State, but questions remain at the most crucial position on the field. Transfer quarterback Justin Fields takes over the position, and Ohio State fans are eager to see how Fields puts his stamp on the offense. Look for Day and his new coaching staff to put Fields in opportunities that will allow him to find early success.
Florida Atlantic at Ohio State
Kickoff: Saturday, Aug. 31 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Ohio State -27.5
When Florida Atlantic Has the Ball
Lane Kiffin is keeping his starting quarterback a mystery. Speculation is that Chris Robison will earn the starting job, but no matter who wins the quarterback spot, the Owls are blessed with talent on offense. Tight end Harrison Bryant is the best in the country at his position that most fans have not heard of, but it is possible they will know who he is after this game. Listed at 6'5", 240 pounds, Bryant is a physical mismatch that Ohio State will need to account for defensively. The Owls also have a solid arsenal of wide receivers, with Willie Wright, Tavaris Harrison, Ronald Patterson, and Jordan Merrell all playmakers.
When Ohio State Has the Ball
Justin Fields is a dual-threat as a runner and passer, but look for the Buckeyes to lean heavily upon J.K. Dobbins as the centerpiece of the Ohio State offense during the initial part of the season. Dobbins is coming off a 1,053-yard rushing season and may be called upon more in the passing game. K.J. Hill returns at wide receiver, while players such as Chris Olave and Binjimen Victor should also emerge from a stacked wide receiver corps.
Florida Atlantic has talent offensively, and Lane Kiffin will look to find any mismatches possible, but the Buckeyes have too much depth and talent on both sides of the ball for the Owls to keep pace in the season opener. The Buckeyes are looking to regain some respect defensively, and with a new coaching staff on board on that side of the ball, look for Ohio State to do just that in the season opener in Ohio Stadium.
Prediction: Ohio State 45, Florida Atlantic 14
(Top photo courtesy of ohiostatebuckeyes.com)