Florida Atlantic (1-4) at ULM (3-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 13, 8:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Malone Stadium (30,427) -- Monroe, Louisiana. Television: Sun Belt Network. Home Record: FAU 1-1, ULM 0-1. Away Record: FAU 0-3, ULM 3-1. Neutral Record: FAU 0-0, ULM 0-0. Conference Record: FAU 0-2, ULM 1-0. Series Record: ULM leads, 6-2.
GAME NOTES: Playing just their second home game of the season, the ULM Warhawks will try to win their third straight on Saturday night when they entertain the Florida Atlantic Owls in Sun Belt Conference action.
Since winning its opener against FCS foe Wagner (7-3), FAU's season has taken a turn for the worse with four straight losses. Two of those defeats came on the road at the hands of national powerhouses Georgia (56-20) and Alabama (40-7), but the other two were crucial Sun Belt matchups with Middle Tennessee (31-17) and North Texas (20-14). Dating back to the end of the 2010 season, the Owls have lost 18 of their last 20 games.
At the other end of the spectrum, it has been a promising start for ULM, which kicked off the campaign with a road victory in overtime against No. 9 Arkansas, 34-31, marking one of the biggest wins in Sun Belt history. The Warhawks then went wire-to-wire in a pair of tough road losses against Auburn (31-28 in OT) and Baylor (47-42), before winning back-to-back games over Tulane (63-10) and Middle Tennessee (31-17). The win over the Blue Raiders was just their third win in a Sun Belt opener in program history.
ULM has won six of the previous eight matchups between these two programs, including three straight.
Not surprisingly, FAU has one of the worst offenses in the FBS, ranking 119th in scoring offense (13 ppg) and 116th in total offense (278.4 ypg). It has only made 13 trips to the red zone in five games, converting just seven of those chances into points.
Graham Wilbert's first season as the starting quarterback has been anything but remarkable. He boasts a solid completion percentage (.648), but he is averaging fewer than 150 passing yards per game and has just five touchdown tosses to go along with three interceptions.
William Dukes is the Owls' leading receiver with 18 catches for 224 yards, but he has yet to find the end zone. Dukes is one of just four players on the team with double-digit receptions.
The offensive line has not created many holes for the running backs, as Damian Fortner (240 yards, two TDs), Jonathan Wallace (159 yards), and Martese Jackson (136 yards) have shared time in the backfield.
The Owls' lackluster offense paired with the fact that they have taken on some very imposing teams has led to some dour defensive statistics (30 ppg, 434.6 ypg). The unit showed promise against North Texas however, allowing 307 total yards.
There has been very little pressure put on opposing quarterbacks with just four sacks recorded by the Owls to this point. Jeremy McKnight is one of the few defensive standouts with 42 tackles, two tackles for loss, an interception and a fumble recovery.
No matter how you look at it, ULM has the most explosive offense in the conference, ranking first in scoring offense (39.6 ppg), total offense (514.6 ypg), first downs per game (28.6), and third-down percentage (.522).
Without question, the catalyst has been quarterback Kolton Browning, who is averaging 291.8 ypg passing and 46.6 ypg rushing. He has also contributed 15 total touchdowns against only three interceptions as he continues to build a fine resume' for Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year.
When Browning isn't taking off out of the pocket, it's likely the ball will be in the hands of running back Jyruss Edwards, who leads the team with 374 yards and six touchdowns. He has been especially impressive over his last three games with 262 yards and five scores in that span.
ULM has perhaps the best receiving trio in the conference, with Brent Leonard (38 receptions), Tavarese Maye (31 receptions) and Je'Ron Hamm (20 receptions) all recording more than 320 receiving yards. Hamm has caught a touchdown pass in back-to-back weeks.
The Warhawks have gotten into a lot of shootouts, which hasn't exactly helped the defense (27.2 ppg, 360.4 ypg), but it is coming off a couple of strong efforts after allowing just 27 total points in its last two games.
Nine interceptions and four fumble recoveries have helped the team earn a turnover margin of +1.20, which is tied with Florida for 16th-best in the country. DaCorris Ford has two picks, while R.J. Young leads the team with 34 tackles.
On paper, this game is about as lopsided as a Sun Belt matchup can be. ULM has explosive playmakers at every offensive position, while the Owls lack the fire power to keep up. The fact that the Warhawks are home just adds insult to injury for FAU.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: ULM 45, Florida Atlantic 13
10/10 10:34:17 ET