Florida Atlantic (2-3) at FIU (2-3) (ET)

FACTS & STATS: Site: FIU Stadium (23,500) — Miami, Florida. Television: FSN.
Home Record: FAU 2-0, FIU 1-3. Away Record: FAU 0-3, FIU 1-0. Neutral Record:
FAU 0-0, FIU 0-0. Conference Record: FAU 1-0, FIU 1-0. Series Record: FAU
leads, 9-3.

GAME NOTES: Thursday night college football action will kick off with a
matchup between the Florida Atlantic Owls and the FIU Panthers, who square off
in an intrastate Conference USA matchup at FIU Stadium.

FAU took on a tough UTSA squad last Saturday, and came away with a hard-fought
41-37 win for the team’s second win of the season. The victory increased the
Owls’ home record to a perfect 2-0, but FAU has struggled on the road this
season headed into Thursday night’s matchup.

FIU has already increased its win total from last season by 100 percent. The
Panthers finished the 2013 campaign with a 1-11 overall record, and now have
two wins this season already thanks to a 34-20 victory over conference foe UAB
last Saturday. The win ended a two-game Panthers losing streak.

FAU leads the all-time series against the intrastate and conference rival FIU,
9-3. The Owls won the most recent matchup, which was played last November,
21-7. But prior to last season’s meeting, the Panthers had won two clashes in
a row.

The Owls were down to UTSA by 10 points more than halfway through the fourth
quarter, but thanks to two late-game touchdown passes from Jaquez Johnson
(including one to Nate Terry with 20 seconds to play), FAU was able to erase
the deficit to defeat the Roadrunners, 41-37. Johnson finished the game with
295 passing yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s been a gem so
far through five games, passing for 773 yards with seven touchdowns and no
interceptions. He’s also rushed for 118 yards and another three scores. And he
missed a game earlier this season.

The only player that has more rushing yards than Johnson is running back Jay
Warren, who has carried 72 times for 377 yards this season. As a unit, FAU is
averaging 128.2 rushing ypg, but has only scored four times on the ground.
Compare that to the 14 times opponents have rushed for scores through the
first five games, and the Owls seem to have some catching up to do.

The passing game, led by Johnson, has been effective at times. The Owls are
averaging 185.4 passing ypg, and have eight touchdown connections. Lucky
Whitehead has the most receptions (28) while Jenson Stoshak has recorded the
most receiving yards (295). Both players have a team-high two touchdown

It’s a bad combination when the offense can’t keep up with the torrid pace at
which the defense is allowing opponents to score. The Owls are surrendering
34.8 ppg this season, compared to 23.4 ppg for FAU, and allow 502.6 total
offensive ypg. Through five contests, though, the FAU defense has notched
seven turnovers.

Safety Damian Parms leads the team with 45 total tackles, adding three tackles
for loss and a forced fumble to his stat line. Linebacker Andrae Kirk isn’t
too far behind Parms’ total, having registered 42 stops through five games
with four tackles for loss, two sacks and seven pass breakups (a team high).

With 11 sacks and 23 tackles for loss, the Owls are certainly active on
defense, but they still struggle to keep opponents out of the end zone.

The FIU Panthers didn’t do much at all offensively against the UAB Blazers
last Saturday in the team’s 34-20 win, but it was the defense that stepped up
big with two interceptions for touchdowns that sealed the win. That’s not to
say the offense performed badly, though. Freshman quarterback Alex McGough
completed just nine passes, but threw for 204 yards with a pair of touchdowns.
He now has seven passing scores this season to two interceptions, and has a
rushing touchdown as well.

The running game for the Panthers has been poor through the team’s first five
games, averaging 85.8 rushing ypg with just two scores on the ground. Alex
Gardner is the team’s leading rusher with 313 yards on 64 carries (4.9 ypc).
Anthon Samuel is the only player besides McGough with a rushing touchdown this

McGough and E.J. Hilliard have been the primary players under center through
five contests, helping the passing game to average 185.8 ypg. Tight end Jonnu
Smith is the primary weapon through the air, having registered 23 receptions
for 311 yards and three touchdowns so far. He caught one pass for 75 yards and
a touchdown in last weekend’s win over UAB.

With an offense that has been relatively ineffective, the Panthers have
counted on their defense to step up to slow opponents down. And the unit has
been pretty successful against some big-name opposition, allowing 22.6 ppg and
317.8 total offensive ypg. Against UAB, the Panthers notched two interceptions
for touchdowns, and have picked off seven interceptions this season.

Demarkus Perkins, who was one of the players to intercept Jeremiah Briscoe of
UAB last Saturday, leads the team with 36 tackles through five games played.
Richard Leonard, who also had an interception for a score over the weekend,
leads the team with three interceptions, and also has a forced fumble and a
fumble recovery. The Panthers have prided themselves on forcing turnovers so
far this season.

FIU will have to get it together offensively in order to stay with FAU, which
dropped 41 points against a talented UTSA squad last weekend. But if the
Panthers can keep it together defensively at home, they have a great shot to
win. The Owls are 0-3 on the road this season, having scored just 26 points in
those three road contests (against some pretty stiff competition). It will be
an intense battle, but FAU’s Johnson doesn’t make the mistakes FIU needs to

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Florida Atlantic 24, FIU 20