Florida Atlantic Owls Preview 2022: Season Prediction, Breakdown, Key Games, Players

Florida Atlantic Owls Preview 2022: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the Florida Atlantic season with what you need to know and keys to the season.

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Florida Atlantic Owls Preview
Head Coach: Willie Taggart, 3rd year at Florida Atlantic, 10-11
13th year overall, 66-73: 2021 Preview
2021 Record: Overall: 5-7, Conference: 3-5
Keys To The Season | Season Prediction, What Will Happen
Florida Atlantic Top 10 Players | FAU Schedule

Florida Atlantic Owls Preview 2022

It all needs to kick in for Willie Taggart and Florida Atlantic.

There was a misfire season in the mix, but Lane Kiffin came up with a few monster seasons, and it wasn’t supposed to be a big pivot to Taggart, a terrific builder of programs who didn’t get any semblance of a break or time to operate at Florida State.

But FAU didn’t need any rebuilding or a whole lot of work two years ago, and a collapse of a final month in 2021 was a problem.

Everything was rolling along with an okay 5-3 season and four games to go to get bowl eligible, but the offense flopped in November, the defense struggled, and four double-digit losses – hurt most by the 27-17 home season finale against Middle Tennessee – made it three losing seasons in the last four for Taggart since leaving Oregon.

Fortunately, the 2022 Owls are loaded with veterans, a few nice parts from the transfer portal beefed up the depth, and with all the changes in Conference USA, the opportunity is there to fill the void and become the league’s powerhouse again.

Florida Atlantic Owls Preview 2022: Offense

The offense died when it needed to kick in. Overall, there wasn’t a problem moving the chains – the Owls were great on third downs, but the style of attack means they only had the ball for around 27 minutes a game – but the pass protection wasn’t there and the running game was painfully inconsistent. But …

The offensive line is loaded with veterans. It wasn’t a great group last year, but four starters are back, there’s decent depth and Brendan Bordner is coming in from Rutgers to work on the left side – that allows some shuffling to get the five best players up front. Now they need to do more for the ground game.

Johnny Ford averaged over six yards per carry with a team-high 831 yards, and Nebraska transfer Marvin Scott comes in to add even more speed.

Former Miami Hurricane N’Kosi Perry was fine as the starting quarterback. He threw for close to 2,800 yards with 20 touchdowns and seven picks, and now he knows the offense and should settle in. The receivers are there to help.

LaJohntay Wester led the way with 65 catches, but junior Je’Quan Burton is the explosive playmaker averaging over 18 yards per grab. More options have to emerge, but there are plenty of good-sized targets looking to get more work.

Florida Atlantic Owls Preview 2022: Defense

The defense might have struggled late, but it had its moments. It was the best in Conference USA on third downs, it did a great job of bending but not breaking, and it only allowed more than 165 rushing yards against Florida and Air Force.

There should be a good improvement with a whole lot of experience back up front and the transfer portal providing plenty of instant help, starting with …

The linebacking corps got a boost with Jamie Pettway coming in from Missouri and Tennessee’s Morven Joseph playing in a hybrid role in the rotation. They’ll go along with veteran Eddie Williams – a safety-sized outside defender – and 245-pound Chris Jones adding some thump.

The pass rush has to show up from somewhere. There were just 17 sacks with four to them coming in the finale against Middle Tennessee State. Jaylen Joyner only came up with four sacks, but that was enough to lead the team. He’s back at one end, and big 356-pound Evan Anderson managed to come up with a team high eight tackles for loss on the nose.

The secondary is the biggest problem with the loss of New York Giant Zyon Gilbert at one corner and several other key parts gone.

On the plus side, Teja Young is one of the best safeties in Conference USA – third on the team with 59 tackles and with a team-high three picks – and all the really, really young players from last year should be ready to fill in.

Keys To The Season | Season Prediction, What Will Happen
Florida Atlantic Top 10 Players | FAU Schedule

Florida Atlantic Owls: Keys To The Season, Top Game, Top Transfer, Fun Stats NEXT

Florida Atlantic Owls: Keys To The Season, Top Game, Top Transfer, Fun Stats

Florida Atlantic Owls: Key To The 2022 Offense

The running game has to be more consistent.

The offensive line play as a whole has to be better after struggling way too much in pass protection and failing to crank up the ground game on a regular basis. The backs are good enough, but they need room to move.

The Owls were feast or famine on the ground. When it didn’t work, it really crashed with four games with fewer than 100 yards and under three yards per carry.

The program is 1-11 in its last 12 games going back to 2015 when it doesn’t get to 100 yards.

Florida Atlantic Owls: Key To The 2022 Defense

Pass rush, pass rush, pass rush.

It was there in 2020 with 25 sacks in eight games, it crushed in 2019 and was relatively solid through the years. Last year, the 1.42 sacks per game were the fewest since coming up with 12 sacks in 12 games in 2012.

To be fair, there were enough running teams on the slate to keep down the opportunities, but the 17 sacks weren’t enough and it showed with the secondary getting hammered for close to 3,000 yards.

Fortunately, there aren’t a slew of high-powered passing teams on the slate for a little while, and then they start to kick in.

So …

Florida Atlantic Owls: Key Player To The 2022 Season

LB Chris Jones, Soph.
The 6-4, 245-pounder plays the hybrid Jack role, and now it’s his job to be more of a disruptive force.

The Owls have size on the inside, and Jaylen Joyner will get behind the line, but Jones needs to be the speed guy who does a whole lot more than the one sack and four tackles for loss from last year.

Florida Atlantic Owls: Key Transfer

OT Brendan Bordner, Sr.
Missouri LB Jamie Pettway should make the bigger impact overall, but Bordner’s emergence is more important for a line that needs to be stronger and better.

The 6-5, 305-pound transfer from Rutgers needs to slide into the left tackle job. That allows Marquice Robinson to either kick inside or work on the right side, and it lets the coaching staff play around with the puzzle to get the right starting five up front.

Florida Atlantic Key Game To The 2022 Season

UAB, Oct. 29
There are a few key parts to this. First, it’s a showdown with a team that might just be the best in Conference USA. Second, it’s a home game before a break, and then a killer finishing kick.

The Owls get a week off after hosting the Blazers, and then come road games at FIU and Middle Tennessee – which shouldn’t be a big deal if everything is working, but they’re road games – before closing with WKU.

Florida Atlantic Owls: 2021 Fun Stats

– Sacks: Opponents 35 for 209 yards – FAU 16 for 116 yards
– Fumbles: FAU 22 (lost 11) – Opponents 14 (lost 6)
– 4th Down Conversions: Opponents 15-of-26 (58%) – FAU 9-of-23 (39%)

O, D Breakdown | Season Prediction, What Will Happen
Florida Atlantic Top 10 Players | FAU Schedule

Florida Atlantic Owls Season Prediction, What Will Happen NEXT

Florida Atlantic Owls Season Prediction, What Will Happen

There’s absolutely no excuse to not have a fantastic season without sweating a bowl appearance. More than that, Florida Atlantic has to be a major player in the Conference USA race.

It’s not like losing Old Dominion and Southern Miss to the Sun Belt should make that much of a difference, but Marshall not being around matters. Combine that with the breaks in the schedule to get a slew of key games at home, and with the experience returning on both sides of the ball, and just assume seven wins and go from there.

Set The Florida Atlantic Owls Regular Season Win Total At … 7.5

The Owls will almost certainly lose at Purdue, and the home date against UCF won’t be easy, but there’s nothing else to get into a twist over.

UAB is nasty, but that’s in Boca Raton, and so is the regular season finale against WKU. There’s no UTSA or Louisiana Tech to face – that’s a plus.

If this is going to be any sort of a big season, beating Charlotte, Rice, SE Louisiana, FIU, and UTEP can’t be an issue. If things are back to normal, winning at Ohio is a must, and taking down North Texas on the road can’t be a problem.

To put it another way, there’s going to be a lot of grumbling – and rightly so – if the Owls don’t at least go bowling.

Offense, Defense Breakdown | Keys To The Season
Florida Atlantic Top 10 Players | FAU Schedule

2022 College Football Schedules: All 131 Teams

Story originally appeared on College Football News