North Texas Mean Green (9-3 SU, 8-4 ATS) vs. Florida Atlantic Owls (9-3 SU, 8-4 ATS)
College Football Week 14
Date/Time: Saturday, December 2, 2017 at 12PM EST
Where: FAU Football Stadium, Boca Raton, Florida
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: UNT +10.5/FAU -10.5
Over/Under Total: 74
The Florida Atlantic Owls take on the North Texas Mean Green on Saturday in the Conference USA title game. Both teams enter this game at 9-3, while also having both gone 8-4 against the spread. Both teams also enter this contest on the heels of some good momentum. The Owls have won 8 straight, including a 31-12 win over Charlotte in their last game. North Texas, meanwhile, is coming off five straight wins with a 30-14 win over Rice in their last outing. The last time the Mean Green lost was against this very FAU team, as the Owls smashed North Texas, 69-31, on October 21 in this very building. The Owls took a 41-7 halftime lead and only some late garbage touchdowns from North Texas made it look as respectable as it was, being that it was really a blowout for FAU for all intents and purposes. Florida Atlantic looks for more of the same after putting up over 800 yards of offense against North Texas in their first meeting.
Under first-year head coach Lane Kiffin, the Owls got off to a ragged start, getting beaten out-of-conference en route to a 1-3 start. Once they got into Conference USA play, however, they took flight, closing the season with eight straight wins. Some of their point-totals along the way have been enormous, as theyve covered 6 of their last 8 spreads during this unbeaten streak. And with how they performed against North Texas the first time around, many favor the Owls to become C-USA champions this week, capping off a dynamite first season by Kiffin and Company.
The FAU offense is a handful, as they illustrated by the free-for-all they put on against the Mean Green in October. They can really run the heck out of the ball, led by running back Devin Singletary, who has run for 1630 yards with an immense 27 touchdowns. RB Gregory Howell, Jr. is also a factor on the ground with 690 yards. Also aiding in the run is QB Jason Driskel, who has run in 6 scores of his own. Driskel can do some damage aerially and has reliable targets with which to work in Willie Wright, Harrison Bryant, Kalib Woods, and DeAndre McNeal. This offense has been consistent, delivering week in and week out. They hope to duplicate the dominance they showed in their first meeting with North Texas this week.
The FAU defense didnt need to be great this season with the offense they have. And they werent greatpretty average across most areas. The 24.8 point-average they allow per game is stout enough to let the offense do its thing. They can make plays, with corners Chris Tooley and Shelton Lewis each having picked off four balls this season, while S Jalen Young has five interceptions. LB Rashan Smith is an active linebacker with a flair for pass-rushing. Lewis and Tooley both had picks in the North Texas game and they look for a similar playmaking component this week in the conference title game.
Granted, North Texas absorbed a hellacious beating at the hands of FAU the first time around, but they have responded well with five straight wins since that meeting. They have covered the spread in each of their last four games and were able to peak at the right time and enter this game with some momentum. Their season also got off to an uneven start, with a 1-2 record. They won three straight before running into the Owls. So if not for the Florida Atlantic game, theyve been really good in their last 9 games and look to make amends this week.
The North Texas offense might not quite be on the level of Florida Atlantics, but they have put up an average of 37.5 points per game. They offer a little more balance, with damage being done on the ground and aerially, as well. Quarterback Mason Fine has been good with 3393 yards and 27 passing touchdowns. He worked well with a couple good backs in Jeffrey Wilson and Nic Smith. Wilson had 1215 yards with 16 touchdowns, while Smith has 615 yards and six scores. Through the air, they have a lot of juice with Jalen Guyton, Michael Lawrence, Rico Bussey, and Turner Smiley. But they look to be without Wilson this week and will miss his production on the ground, while Guyton is working his way back from a concussion and not having two heavy-hitters on their offense like that will be costly in spot where they need all the offense they can get.
The North Texas defense hasnt been very good, giving up an average of over 33 points a game. And their leakiness against the run really hurt them in their first game against the Owls. This D has held up against some of the weaker offenses they have faced, but offenses that are good typically have feasted on this group. They dont get many turnovers, cannot apply a consistent pass-rush, and have not scored this season. That kind of leaky play on defense with a dearth of playmaking ability really cost them the first time around. Will they be haunted by what happened in the first game in this very venue or can they come up with some answers this week?
On one hand, North Texas spurt since losing to Florida Atlantic so lopsidedly the first time offers some promise. They managed to forge a strong season despite that and other adversity. But it would be better if they landed in this spot at full-strength. Not having their top back and possibly their top receiver for this game takes a difficult spot and makes it a real severe test on a Mean Green bunch that might not have the firepower to compete. I see Florida Atlantic finishing strong and posting a double-digit win over the Mean Green on Saturday.
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