From the Other Sideline – Florida Atlantic

You may remember from my ESPYs coverage, that I was posted on the red carpet next to Joey Brander, a 15 year old sports broadcaster/journalist that runs www.gbsnsports.com. Brander is the youngest member in history of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. He resides in Boca Raton, Florida, where he has covered the FAU Owls for both his website, as well as his segment on the CBS12 television show “Beyond the Game.” Follow Joey on Twitter at @JoeyBrander.

1. FAU has struggled to score points this year. Auburn has struggled to stop teams from scoring points this year. Which do you think will change this weekend?

I think Auburn’s struggle to stop teams from scoring will end this week. FAU simply cannot score, no matter who the opponent is. They have a solid offensive line and running back core highlighted by senior Alfred Morris, but there isn’t a single quarterback on the roster that can compete against other Sun-Belt schools, let alone a top SEC program. FAU has been outscored 85-3 so far this year, a trend which I see continuing this week.

2. The Owls don’t have much history considering that their football program is only 10 years old, but they do have a Hall of Fame coach in Howard Schnellenberger. How has he helped bring the program along?

Coach Schnellenberger took over the program in its inaugural year, and has brought it to unexpected heights in a short period of time. With two bowl wins and eleven players in the NFL over the last ten years, Florida Atlantic football has certainly become a perennial Sun-Belt favorite.

When Coach Schnellenberger first came to FAU, he said his top goal was to get an on-campus stadium built on the Boca Raton campus. After ten years, his goal was realized, with FAU’s first game in the brand new stadium coming the week following Auburn. In “Field of Dreams,” the saying was “If you build it, he will come.” For the FAU football program, it was “When Schnellenberger comes, it will be built.”

3. What is the biggest concern for FAU as they travel to Auburn?

As I previously stated, the quarterback position will be the biggest concern for FAU not only traveling to Auburn, but for the rest of the season. Multiple interceptions were thrown by both the starter and backup in the pre-season scrimmage against their own team. While it was believed that game experience would help Graham Wilbert, who has been thrust into the starting position after the graduation of Jeff Van Camp last season, it has not been the case through the first two games of the season. Against Michigan State, Wilbert threw for 15 yards all game (yes, he played the whole game), leading an FAU offense that had one first down. At this point, there is no hope in sight at the QB spot for the Owls.

Fun fact: Last year’s starter Jeff Van Camp’s father was a professional wrestler under the name “Lord Humongous.”

4. Name 2-3 Owls that Auburn should look out for?

Willie Floyd-RB – The running back/wide receiver has been making a huge impact on special teams this season, where he serves as FAU’s kick off returner. He broke a 53 yard return against Michigan State, and has averaged nearly 30 yards per return all season.

Marcus Bartels-DB – The defensive back has averaged over nine tackles per game so far, and had an exciting 33 yard interception return against Florida.

Alfred Morris-RB – While he has averaged a lackluster 1.5 yards per carry through the first two games, Morris averaged over 4 YPG the last two seasons, as well as over 900 yards both years.

5. Is there a certain matchup where you see FAU having an advantage?

The one area that could be in FAU’s favor is the matchup between Barrett Trotter and the Auburn receivers against the FAU defensive backs. The DB’s had three interceptions against Florida, and have a knack for creating turnovers. While Trotter played well against Utah State to open the year, he threw a pick in each of the last two games for the Tigers, something FAU will try and exploit.

6. Do you expect many fans to make the trip from Boca Raton?

Many of the hard-core Owl fans will surely make the trip, but other than that, a large FAU showing is unlikely, although they are expecting big numbers for the opening game in the new stadium the week after.

7. What are the overall goals for FAU this season? What are the conference goals?

While every year the main goal for FAU is to compete for a conference title and bowl berth, this year has a different purpose, due to the inconsistency on offense and a most likely 0-3 start. The FAU coaching staff will use this year, Schnellenberger’s last, to welcome in the new stadium, and continue to develop the young offense.

8. Has Auburn’s loss last weekend given the Owls a host of confidence?

Coming off a loss, FAU will go into the game with a mindset that they will give Auburn their second consecutive loss. The FAU coaching staff will surely look at film of the Clemson-Auburn game to try and emulate what Clemson did to take Auburn down.

9. What is your brief analysis/prediction for the game?

While I would love to say FAU has a chance to come out on top, that is simply not the case. FAU’s lack of a quarterback, underperforming running game, and a receivers that must come from a family of firemen (whenever they catch the ball they stop, drop, and roll), will put the Owls in a tough position to make first downs and give the defense a breather.

The new 3-4 defense has looked good so far, despite giving up over forty points in both games. The Owls will bring many defensive blitz packages, with the linebackers in constant movement to disguise who, in fact, is blitzing. The defensive backs have also been great, and have forced three turnovers already. For FAU to have any chance, they must force Barrett Trotter to make mistakes, and get themselves in good field position on special teams.

My prediction: 45-14 Auburn. I think Trotter will throw an interception or two, and Graham Wilbert will stop standing still while looking for a receiver and throw his first touchdown pass of the season.

10. Not really a question, but I looked up FAU’s fight song on YouTube. Ouch.

Vanilla Ice lives here in Palm Beach County. Maybe he can write a new one.