The 2023 FAU Owls: Winning In Paradise

By Ron Johnson

The FAU Owls had themselves a tumultuous 2022 season as they finished the season in a three-way tie for fourth in C-USA action with a 4-4 conference record to go with a 5-7 overall finish. So many things went wrong for the Owls last year, which led to the program giving Willie Taggart his walking papers after his third season with the team. 

This season brings some much needed changes to the program as Tom Herman takes over the program, Casey Thompson, Herman’s protégé so to speak, arrives as potential starting quarterback and the school now finds itself aligned with the American Athletic Conference. The winds of change have indeed blessed the Owls in terms of coaching staff and offensive swagger, but whether this will result in wins and bowl bids remains to be seen for now.

Regardless, Herman looks to have his team ready to take the field when the FAU Owls take the field to open the season on September 2nd against Monmouth followed by a visit from a team that has provided some good rivalry vibes in Ohio. Last season, the two teams battled tooth and nail to the bitter end with the Bobcats outlasting the Owls 41-38.

Now all this pails in comparison to their showdown on September 16th, which makes many wonder if they have a fighting chance. The reason for the pre-anxiety is because on September 16, 2023, they travel to Clemson, SC to face Dabo Sweeney and the Clemson Tigers, a team that will be looking to get themselves back into familiar territory which is the College Football Playoff.

FAU OWLS

This will be a true test for Herman’s Owls as many are picking a blowout win for Sweeney’s Tigers. However, that may not be the case as Clemson has looked human ever since the departure of Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne to the NFL. This could be a loss for FAU, but it also could be an upset in the making.

If Herman puts the right personnel and right amount of pressure on the Tigers, they could pull off the upset. Following their battle with Clemson, they head to Champaign, IL to face the Fighting Illini of Illinois. While this program has been lackluster at times, they still may be a real test for Herman’s squad. If they keep Thompson upright and execute the right moves at the right time, I could see the FAU Owls heading home with the W.

Following their Power 5 Road Trip, they start conference play by hosting Tulsa. The Golden Hurricanes are another team that outlasted FAU last season with a 47-44 win, but that was under Taggart, not Herman. This will be a different Owls team that takes the field for this game, and I see them more than motivated to make a push for the AAC crown.

Following this game, they head to Tampa to face the South Florida Bulls, who have been a force to be reckoned with in recent memory depending on who you ask. Their last meeting saw the Owls pick up a much needed victory, their first, 28-10. Any conference wins the FAU Owls can have will work out in their favor though, but I think they’d rather have at least four. 

I say at least four because I know that they are going to want more conference wins.

Everyone remembers UTSA, right? The Roadrunners were the team that got kept out of the College Football Playoff a few years ago despite having a better record than some of the teams that got to do some of those bigger bowl games known as New Year’s Bowls.

This will be the first meeting of these two teams in almost three years, the last one being a 24-3 win for the Owls. Now the two teams will make this an annual affair as they both will look for control of their destiny in the conference. Also, the Roadrunners will be looking for their first win over the FAU Owls in three attempts. 

October 27th will give the Owls a chance to have a festive Halloween on campus as they face Charlotte in conference play. In August of last year, the Owls went straight ham on the 49ers with a 43-13 drubbing in Charlotte. They currently hold a 6-2 head-to-head record on them. The Owls open up November with a trip to Birmingham to face the UAB Blazers who they hold a 6-3 head-to-head mark on and won the last matchup back in October of last year 24-17. 

Homecoming will either be the 11th or the 18th of November for the Owls as these will be the final two home games of the season for them. On the 11th, they will have the chance to avenge a loss in 2013to the East Carolina Pirates. In their first and only meeting to this point, the Pirates dominated from start to finish and ended up winning 31-13.

The following weekend, they look to make it 2-0 against the Tulane Green Wave. Their last encounter was November 2, 2013, a 34-17 win for the Owls, and by this time, we should know where they stand in terms of bowl eligibility. 

After stuffing their faces with…well, stuffing and turkey, the FAU Owls take the field to face the Rice Owls in what I am dubbing as the Whoville Cup. Including a 17-14 win back in October of last year, the team has split the series with Rice. If everything goes well for Florida Atlantic, they should be setting plans for December 2nd which will be the AAC Conference Championship Game. 

FAU OWLS

FAU Owls 2023 Season Outlook: 9-3

The FAU Owls can easily be a 10-win team this season under Herman. I see Thompson utilizing his arms and his legs to help the team get to bowl eligibility. But let’s make this clear: I don’t blow smoke. Depending on how this team does against two main non-conference opponents, that being Clemson and Illinois, will determine how good the team itself can and will be this season.

Herman has had winning seasons without question. But the stench of Texas may or may not affect how much faith he has in his young men. If they can adapt themselves to this style of coaching, and if Thompson can show himself to be a true locker room leader, FAU should be in a bowl game come late December or early January. 

I see them winning either nine or ten games this season, some of those wins and losses should be close ones. I do not see a blowout from Clemson happening because as stated and shown, Clemson does not look as intimidating as they used to be.

Herman puts knowledge above pride, which is a good thing to have when you are about to coach a program for the first time. I don’t see him having a losing season with these kids, and I see Thompson helping to get the program on the right track before it’s all said and done. Either way, as a Florida Gators fan, I’ll be proud to cheer on the Gators as well as the FAU Owls this season. Good luck Coach! 

2023 FAU Owls Schedule

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