The Gators open up the Will Muschamp era with a matchup with Florida Atlantic. SBNation Tampa Bay previews Florida's 2011 season opener.
When you play in the SEC, you have to take your cupcakes where you can get them. With a scheduled riddled with teams that harbor hopes of holding the crystal football on January 9th in New Orleans, the Gators elect to ease into their schedule every year with a few sacrificial lambs.
This year, the Will Muschamp era will begin with a meeting with the Owls of Florida Atlantic. FAU was 4-8 last year and begin this season with five consecutive road games while they await the completion of their new campus football stadium.
Let's take a look at this "matchup".
A Little About Florida Atlantic
Team Mascot: Owl
Biggest Win in School History: Upset of a nationally ranked Hawaii in 2007, victory over Troy in 2008 to win the Sun Belt Conference
Notable Players: Backup QB Rusty Smith, Tennessee Titans
Other Facts: FAU was the youngest school in Division I history to qualify for a bowl, making it to the New Orleans Bowl in only their 3rd year of Division I play.
Series Record: Florida leads 1-0
Florida Gators Passing Attack vs. FAU Owls Pass Defense
Will Muschamp won't say it because he doesn't want to provide the Owls any bulletin board material but if you're going to G-ville for Saturday night's game - you better get there early if you want to see the starters. Johnny Brantley begins his new lease on his college career under the tutelage of QB guru Charlie Weis.
If Brantley can perform well, he'll likely get an early exit to rest his aching back. Super Freshman Jeff Driskel should get some decent playing time.
Deonte Thompson, who has struggled at catching the football at Florida hopes to get off to a good start.
FAU is switching to a 3-4 defense this year and their defensive line is anchored by
FAU is returning just one player from their secondary returning - All-Sun Belt Safety Marcus Bartels.
Florida Gators Running Game vs. FAU Owls Run Defense
The strength of the Florida offense resides in their backfield. The Gators have a stable of running backs that would make most teams envious.
FAU Owls Passing Attack vs. Florida Gators Defense
Coming off a season where the Owls ranked 113th in the nation in scoring, 69th passing and Junior QB David Kooi is making his first start on the road in Gainesville.
Attrition hurt FAU's receiving core, stripping them of anyone of consequence.
The Gators will be playing their first game under Head Coach Will Muschamp and Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn's defense. Florida DT Omar Hunter hopes to finally reach his potential while William Green and Ron Powell hope to put heat on the quarterback.
FAU Owls Running Attack vs. Florida Gators Run Defense
The one dangerous aspect of the Owls is their running game. Senior tailback Alfred Morris fell just short of a 1,000 yard rushing season and he led the team with seven rushing touchdowns.
The Gators were one of the better teams in the country at stopping the run. With Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins returning, Florida definitely has the ability to keep Morris contained.
Florida's Andre Debose is one of the best returners in the country, winning the National Returner of the Year award in 2010. The Gators kicking game is in solid hands with Caleb Sturgis while Kyle Christie and David Lerner will battle for Chas Henry's punting job.
Willie Ford returns kicks for the Owls, while the team is still confused on who will be their kicker, trying to decide between Freshman Marcelo Bonani and RS Junior Vinny Zaccario.
Will Muschamp will make his head coaching debut on Saturday.
77 year old legendary Howard Schnellenberger has been the only coach in FAU history. He's been a head coach since 1979, returning after a six year retirement. Schnellenberger is 57-63 at FAU and 157-140-3 overall in his career. His 1983 Miami Hurricanes won the National Championship.
By the Numbers
- FAU is winless against the oher division I teams in the state of Florida with the exception of fellow Sun Belt member FIU, the Owls are 8-1 against their conference rivals.
- Will Muschamp is 40 years old, Howard Schnellenberger has been coaching for 52 years (his first job was as an "ends" coach at Kentucky in 1959)
- FAU has been to two Bowl games in their 9 year history. Florida has been 38 Bowl games in their 104 year history
Let's not kid ourselves here. FAU is severely overmatched in this game. If the Gators second and third string players aren't playing in this game by half-time, something is going drastically wrong.
Final Score Prediction: Florida 56, FAU 3