The Miami Hurricanes and the Florida Atlantic Owls began the 2015 season in two entirely different ways. Miami had an easy 45-0 win over the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats after experiencing a 75-minute weather delay because of lightning. FAU lost a heartbreaker 47-44 on the road in overtime against the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes.
Friday will be the first time any Power 5 conference opponent has visited FAU Stadium. The game is expected to be a sellout and has been dubbed, “the most important game the Owls have ever played.”
The Hurricanes and Owls have only played each other once. In the 2013 season opener, the Hurricanes won 34-6 behind behind Duke Johnson's 224 yards of total offense.
Miami at FAU
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Friday)
TV Channel: Fox Sports 1
Spread: Miami -16.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Can the Owls contain Brad Kaaya?
While Kaaya didn’t have the best game of his career against Bethune-Cookman last week, he still had a solid performance. The sophomore quarterback was 16-for-27 for 173 yards and two touchdowns.
In last week’s game against Tulsa, FAU gave up 618 yards of total offense, including 424 through the air. It is going to be difficult to stop the collection of talent that Miami's offense boasts, but the FAU defense was very opportunistic last week against Tulsa. The Owls forced four turnovers, including two interceptions of quarterback Dane Evans. Miami’s offensive line is young and inexperienced, so FAU will need to get pressure on Kaaya to have any chance of slowing down the Hurricanes’ offense.
2. Miami’s defense
While it was against Bethune-Cookman, there was something different about the Miami defense. The unit allowed only 79 yards of total offense and only 23 of those were through the air. The Hurricanes also picked off two passes, recorded 10 tackles for a loss, five sacks and held Bethune-Cookman to just 1.72 yards per play. No matter who the opposing team is, those are impressive stats.
Miami will have a tougher challenge this week against FAU. Against Tulsa, FAU racked up 563 yards of offense, including 300 yards rushing. The Owls have a talented dual-threat quarterback in Jaquez Johnson, so the Hurricanes' entire defense will have to be disciplined and not overpursue when they see Johnson running with the football.
3. Mark Walton and the Hurricanes' running game
While head coach Al Golden wouldn’t characterize the Hurricanes' running backs as a “committee,” the team used a three-headed attack against Bethune-Cookman. FAU can expect something similar on Friday night.
With Gus Edwards out for the season, Walton, a true freshman, received more carries than expected last week and he performed admirably. The former Booker T. Washington Tornado finished the game with 10 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown. Trayone Gray also chipped in eight carries for 77 yards and a touchdown, while starting running back Joe Yearby finished with six carries for 40 yards.
FAU gave up 194 rushing yards against a Tulsa running game that doesn’t nearly have the talent as Miami does. If Walton, Gray and Yearby can move the chains with ease and take pressure off of Kaaya, the Hurricanes could have a very easy night.
Even in their loss last week, FAU showed that this team has improved from its 3-9 campaign a year ago. As much as it appears the Owls have gotten better offensively, their defense was their downfall last week and will be their undoing on Friday night.
Kaaya will be able to exploit the FAU secondary. Then once the Owls' secondary is on its heels, the Hurricanes will begin to run the ball with Walton, Gray and Yearby.
FAU would need multiple turnovers and a near-perfect game to pull off the upset. Miami should begin to pull away in the second quarter and after halftime
Prediction: Miami 48, FAU 20
— 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, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.