Lane Kiffin makes his FAU head coaching debut as the Owls host the Midshipmen
Lane Kiffin gets a chance to restart his coaching career at FAU, but his first test will be trying to keep his team from being worn down by the option attack from Navy. The buzz is palpable about the FAU program as the new season approaches, and the betting lines seem to be trending in FAU's favor the closer we get to kickoff. Navy opened as a three-touchdown favorite when the lines were initially released, but Kiffin's transfer management has helped build a more credible roster in a quick period of time, and the line has been cut by more than half.
Will Navy play spoiler in Boca Raton, or can the Owls come through to fly high on the dawn of a new day for the program?
Navy at FAU
Kickoff: Friday, Sept. 1 at 8 pm ET
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: Navy -10
Three Things to Watch
1. Welcome back, Lane!
Yes, Lane Kiffin is back on a sideline and he's back to being the head coach. It will be good to have Kiffin back in charge of a program, and hopefully, he has learned a thing or two after being on Nick Saban's staff at Alabama. What new wrinkles will Kiffin bring to the FAU offense? How much will he get new transfer players involved? It's a brand-new era for FAU, and a clean slate for Kiffin. Let's see what he does with it.
2. Navy is 1-4 in season openers away from home under Ken Niumatalolo
Navy’s head coach is a well-regarded among his peers with few blemishes in his career. One mark that stands out this week is Navy's record in season openers under Niumatalolo when on the road, or away from home. The Midshipmen are just 1-4 when opening up a new season outside of Annapolis, but two of those losses have come against Ohio State, once to Maryland and once to Notre Dame (in Ireland). That trend may not come into play here with FAU not up to the same level as those opponents at the time the games were played, but it is a fascinating side nugget about Niumatalolo.
3. Navy looks for consistency at QB
It has now been a couple of years since Navy could rely on Keenan Reynolds running the offense. Injuries piled up for the Midshipmen last season, and that holds Navy back from having much starting experience at the trigger position in the option offense with initial starter Tago Smith going down for the year in the season opener and Will Worth going down in the AAC Championship Game. Zach Abey has played in five games and appeared in two starts last season, leaving Navy with the fewest returning games played at the position entering the 2017 season (Texas State 0; Georgia Southern 2; Southern Miss 4; UAB and Rice tied with Navy).
FAU could soon be a lot of fun to watch under Lane Kiffin as the Owls build a roster built on transfers with power conference experience and potential. This game, however, could prove to be a matchup that does not bode well for the Owls in search of establishing a rhythm and identity. Navy's option game can be slowed down if FAU is physical enough and conditioned well enough to hang in there in the fourth quarter, but Navy is the clear favorite in this opener.
Prediction: Navy 30, FAU 23
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.
(Lane Kiffin photo courtesy of @FAU_Football)