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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 29, 3 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: FAU Stadium (30,000) -- Boca Raton, Florida. Television: FS1. Home Record: FIU 0-6, FAU 2-2. Away Record: FIU 1-4, FAU 3-4. Neutral Record: FIU 0-0, FAU 0-0. Conference Record: FIU 1-6, FAU 3-4. Series Record: Florida Atlantic leads, 8-2.
GAME NOTES: Sunshine State rivals wrap up regular-season action on Friday afternoon, as the Florida Atlantic Owls play host to Conference USA foe FIU.
FIU's switch from the Sun Belt Conference in 2012 to C-USA this year did not go smoothly, as its only win in 11 tries came on Oct. 5 against winless Southern Miss, 24-23. Since that triumph, the Panthers have dropped five in a row, most recently losing at home to Marshall last weekend, 48-10.
FAU, also in its first season in C-USA after coming over from the Sun Belt, has adapted to its new surroundings much better, and at 5-6 it is just a win away from becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2008. The Owls have gotten hot at the right time, as they are currently riding a three-game win streak. They dismantled New Mexico State at home last week, 55-10, for their largest margin of victory versus an FBS opponent in program history.
These squads have been playing one another since the 2002 season, with FAU holding an 8-2 advantage in the series.
Simply put, FIU's offensive output this season has been atrocious, as both its scoring (10.1 ppg) and yardage (226.9 ypg) numbers rank 122nd out of 123 FBS teams, with only Miami-Ohio having a more futile season.
Not surprisingly, the Panthers have experienced a lack of identity under center, as neither Jake Medlock (.493, 866 yards, four TDs, six INTs) nor E.J. Hilliard (.579, 742 yards, three TDs, four INTs) has asserted himself as the guy. The signal callers have been under duress all season, being sacked 44 times.
Lamarq Caldwell (487 yards, TD) and Silas Spearman (332 yards, four TDs) have split the carries in the backfield, but neither averages more than 3.6 yards per attempt.
Jonnu Smith is the top target in a lackluster passing game with 34 receptions for 344 yards and two touchdowns.
FIU's defense has almost no chance at being successful considering the position the offense puts it in on a consistent basis, but it has played poorly as well (38.5 ppg, 429.5 ypg).
Markeith Russell is the team leader in tackles with 86. Justin Halley (51 tackles) has two interceptions, 10 passes defended and two forced fumbles, while Isame Faciane (10.5 TFL, two blocked kicks) and Greg Hickman (9.5 TFL, 4.0 sacks, three FF) have both been active in opponents' backfields.
While FAU's offense has been much better than FIU's, it is simply modest by most teams' standards (26.9 ppg, 381.7 ypg), but in last week's rout of NMSU it exploded for 585 yards.
Jaquez Johnson has been a solid dual-threat quarterback this season, as he is completing 58.6 percent of his passes for 1,663 yards with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions, to go with 708 rushing yards and 10 more scores. He had a career-high-tying three passing touchdowns against NMSU on top of 400 total yards.
Johnson's favorite target in terms of moving the chains is Daniel McKinney (45 receptions, 540 yards, TD), while he looks to William Dukes (34 receptions, 494 yards, five TDs) and Nexon Dorvilus (18 receptions, 193 yards, five TDs) in the red zone.
Complementing Johnson in the backfield is Johnathan Wallace, who's picked up 568 yards and three touchdowns on 119 carries, although he is questionable for this contest. In the event of his absence, Jay Warren (325 yards, two TDs) and Damian Fortner (192 yards, four TDs) would see an increased workload.
The Owls have been creeping towards bowl eligibility in recent weeks, thanks mostly to the strong play of their defense, which allows just 23.7 points per game and ranks first in C-USA in total defense (341.4 ypg).
D'Joun Smith has wreaked havoc in the secondary with seven interceptions (tied for second in FBS) while adding 19 passes defended and two forced fumbles to boot. Andrae Kirk (76 tackles, INT), Adarius Glanton (70 tackles, 8.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks), Brandin Bryant (9.5 TFL, 6.0 sacks), Christian Milstead (four INTs) and Cory Henry (7.0 TFL, 5.0 sacks, FF) are also having standout seasons for the unit.
FAU is playing its best football of the season, while FIU appears to be counting down the hours until it can put its miserable campaign in the rearview mirror. Expect the Owls to give the home crowd something to cheer about, as they march on toward bowl eligibility.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Florida Atlantic 34, FIU 13
11/27 11:12:25 ET