It may not be the Gators and the Seminoles, but the Owls of Florida Atlantic will celebrate a victory over the rival Florida International Panthers all the same.
These two teams haven't exactly been the shining lights of college football in the state of Florida, but they are set to meet again on Saturday for in-state bragging rights.
Last season the Panthers delivered a 41-7 beatdown to the Owls, and FAU is looking for payback. Despite last year's lopsided defeat, the Owls have handled the Panthers through most of the history between the two teams. They have won eight of the 10 meetings between the two South Florida schools.
Gone from the Panthers team that smashed the Owls in 2011 is T.Y. Hilton (now of the Indianapolis Colts). He had a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in that game. It sparked the Panthers and gave them the momentum that they never relinquished.
This season, the Panthers have struggled mightily. They broke a seven-game losing streak by defeating South Alabama 28-20 on Saturday. They are now 2-8 heading just down the road to take on the Owls.
The season hasn't been much better for Florida Atlantic. They are just 3-7 on the season, but they have won two of the last three games. The team has also been a respectable 2-1 at FAU Stadium. The Owls defense should have an opportunity to take advantage of faulty pass protection from the Panthers.
The team has surrendered 30 sacks this season which is the most allowed in the Sun Belt conference. Junior pass rushers Randell Johnson and Cory Henry should be factors in this game.
Senior quarterback Graham Wilbert had to sit through the rout last season, but he should be on the happy end of this meeting. He's quietly put together a solid season in 2012. Despite his team's losing record he has thrown for 2,032 yards, 14 touchdowns and only three interceptions.
He'll surely have a role in the Owls gaining their revenge. My prediction is a 35-30 victory for the Owls at home.
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