FACTS & STATS: Site: Sun Life Stadium (74,916) -- Miami Gardens, Florida. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: FAU 0-0, Miami 0-0. Away Record: FAU 0-0, Miami 0-0. Neutral Record: FAU 0-0, Miami 0-0. Conference Record: FAU 0-0, Miami 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Miami Hurricanes welcome the Florida Atlantic Owls to Sun Life Stadium on Friday night to kick off the 2013 college football season.
Miami enters its third season under head coach Al Golden and is hopeful of building on last year's 7-5 campaign. The Hurricanes finished in a tie for first place in the ACC Coastal Division and would have qualified for the league title game, but they were ineligible for the postseason. With the program's self-imposed two-year ban now finished, coach Golden said his team is approaching the season with a real sense of urgency to try and win all 14 games on the schedule.
Florida Atlantic left the Sun Belt Conference at the end of last season and enters 2013 as a first-year member of Conference USA. Carl Pelini's debut season as the head coach of the Owls featured some steps in the right direction as there was little to expect from a program than finished 1-11 in 2011. Florida Atlantic didn't challenge for a bowl berth, but did manage to triple its win total from the season before.
This is the first-ever meeting between these two schools.
Upon the graduation of FAU star running back Alfred Morris following the 2011 season, Pelini shifted to a more pass-heavy approach on offense. With former quarterback Graham Wilbert lost to graduation at the end of 2012, Senior Melvin German III, who was selected to play in the JUCO MATJC All-Star Game after a stellar year at Pearl River Community College, is the leading candidate to become the Owls' next signal caller.
Senior running back Jonathan Wallace finished 2012 strong with 479 yards over the last six games and is expected to get the lion's share of the touches out of the backfield.
All of the top wideouts from 2012 return, including William Dukes (979 yards, 63 receptions), a second-team All-SBC pick, and Daniel McKinney (497 yards, 48 receptions).
FAU was a weak squad defensively last season primarily due to its inability to slow down the opposition's rushing attack. It finished 102nd among FBS programs in rush defense with 202.1 yards allowed per game and it surrendered over 260 yards on five separate occasions.
The Owls will be led up front by senior defensive end Cory Henry (6-1, 215), who is entering his third year as the starter. Sophomore defensive tackle Trevon Coley showed some flashes of potential as a rookie and could flourish in a starting role. Senior Adarius Glanton is the key player for the undersized linebacking unit. Randell Johnson (6-4, 230) and Andrae Kirk (6-2, 225) are the other starters for the second tier. The secondary appears to be the strongest point of the defense with three returning starters. Senior corner Keith Reaser tied Glanton for the team-high in interceptions in 2012, while also recording 61 tackles.
Miami's offense boasts some serious big-play potential. Ten starters return from an offense that averaged just over 440 yards per game, including senior quarterback Stephen Morris, whose play improved as the season progressed. He threw for 21 touchdowns against just seven interceptions and enters 2013 with a streak of 139 consecutive pass attempts without a pick.
Better yet, he'll also have his top three pass catchers from a year ago, led by junior Phillip Dorsett (team-high 58 receptions, 842 yards, four TDs).
In the backfield, Duke Johnson averaged a whopping 6.8 ypc last year as a freshman and finished second in the ACC in rushing. He accumulated 1,003 all- purpose yards and seven TDs over the final four games and will look forward to operating behind an offensive line that returns all five starters.
Miami defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio has his work cut out for him in 2013, despite 10 starters returning on the defensive side. Last year, Miami was abused both by the run and the pass and gave up an ugly 486.4 yards of total offense per game.
The defensive line returns four starters, led by rush ends Shayon Green (team- high 67 tackles) and Anthony Chicklillo (45 tackles, four sacks).
Junior linebacker Denzel Perryman (64 tackles, five TFL) leads the way for Miami in the linebacking corps.
An unproven secondary will need players to step up and become leaders. Sophomore DBs Tracy Howard, Deon Bush and Rayshawn Jenkins are talented but must step up their games, while junior Ladarius Gunter and senior A.J. Highsmith push for playing time as well.
The Hurricanes are one of the favorites in the ACC's Coastal Division thanks to their high-powered offense. They'll keep the scoreboard operator busy in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Miami 63, Florida Atlantic 17
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