The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs will try to keep their Conference-USA title hopes alive when they pay a visit to Lane Kiffin and the Florida Atlantic Owls. Game time is set for 6:30 EST on Friday, October 26, at FAU Football Stadium in Boca Raton, Florida. Fans can catch all the action on CBS Sports Network.
Florida Atlantic is listed as a 3-point favorite at home, according to this week’s college football odds. However, that line has come down slightly after the Owls opened the week favored by 3.5 points. The over/under for the game is set at 58.5 points.
Louisiana Tech is currently pushing for their third trip to the Conference-USA Championship Game in the last five years. Following back-to-back wins over UTSA and UTEP, the Bulldogs are 5-2 overall and 3-1 in conference play, putting them in a decent position to get there.
The problem they have is that their one conference loss came against UAB, who remains undefeated inside the league. If Louisiana Tech can win out and hope that UAB loses two conference games, the Bulldogs would reach the conference title game. The conference schedule the rest of the way is quite favorable for the Bulldogs to take care of business. However, this week’s trip to Florida Atlantic is easily the toughest conference game they have left.
Meanwhile, Florida Atlantic is trying to salvage a season in which they’ve underperformed. Some believed the Owls could be a top-25 team this season. However, they enter Friday’s game just 3-4 and 1-2 in conference play. To be fair, two of those losses have come against Oklahoma and Central Florida, who are both top-10 teams. Of course, the Owls don’t have that excuse for last week’s 31-7 loss to Marshall.
With two conference losses, FAU is going to need to win out and get a lot of help if they hope to repeat as Conference-USA champions. They also need three more wins just to become bowl eligible. With road games against Florida International and North Texas still on their schedule, winning three more games will become a monumental challenge if the Owls can’t find a way to beat Louisiana Tech on Friday.
This will be just the second all-time meeting between the Bulldogs and Owls. FAU beat Louisiana Tech last year 48-23 in Louisiana, so the Bulldogs will surely be eager to return the favor this time around.
Even at home, I can’t buy Florida Atlantic as a favorite in this game. The Owls may have challenged themselves with a tough schedule, but their most impressive win this season is against Air Force, who is also 3-4. FAU hasn’t proven that they can beat good teams, and Louisiana Tech is definitely a good team. I like my chances with the Bulldogs as road underdogs.
Turnovers are one of the major issues that have plagued Florida Atlantic this season. They committed five last week in their loss to Marshall, turning what should have been a competitive game into a one-sided affair. On the season, quarterback Chris Robison has thrown 10 interceptions, which is more than the eight touchdown passes he’s thrown. The Owls aren’t talented enough on offense to overcome being so careless with the ball. I also think the La. Tech defense is good enough to take advantage of a team that’s turnover-prone.
FAU’s other big problem is their defense, which ranks 120th nationally. Again, losses to Oklahoma and Central Florida have helped to make the Florida Atlantic defense look worse than they actually are. But even if you take those two games out of the equation, the Owls are giving up close to 29 points per game. They were even torched for over 500 yards and 33 points by a 2-6 Old Dominion team a couple weeks ago, so there are some holes on that side of the ball.
The Louisiana Tech offense is far from a juggernaut, but they have some genuine playmakers. Quarterback J’Mar Smith is a dynamic athlete who can make plays with both his arm and his legs. His completion percentage and consistency both leave something to be desired. However, Smith isn’t afraid to take deep shots. The Bulldogs also have the kinds of receivers who can stretch the field vertically, so they should be able to put a lot of pressure on the Florida Atlantic defense.
When the FAU defense has struggled this year, it’s usually been against the pass. Even a run-heavy team like Air Force was able to have some success throwing the ball against them. I expect the Bulldogs to spread the field and throw the ball down the field until the Owls prove they can stop it.
Ultimately, the Owls have too many flaws for me to believe that they’ll be able to win the game, much less cover the spread. On the road, the Bulldogs are 3-1, with the only loss coming against LSU. That makes me confident that they’ll be able to pull out a close win against FAU, even as a road underdog.