SMU vs. Florida Atlantic: Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl fearless prediction and game preview.
SMU vs. Florida Atlantic: Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl Broadcast
SMU (10-2) vs. Florida Atlantic (10-3) Preview
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Three Reasons Why You Should Watch The Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl
– The law of averages dictates that this should finally be a decent Boca Raton Bowl. It’s the sixth time this thing has been rolling – the first five are totally miserable. Toledo’s 32-17 win over Temple in 2015 was the closest call of the bunch, with the five winners triumphing by a total score of 222-87, or an average of 44 to 17. In other words, we’re way due for something interesting.
– There’s no Lane Kiffin at FAU anymore, but there’s a good path going forward with Willie Taggart about to take over, and with defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer stepping in for this game. It’s a home game for the Owls, and it made the most of it two years ago with a 50-3 win over Akron. The program is 3-0 in its relatively short history in bowl games, and it’s got the talent to make it a battle even with the coaching change.
– It’s potentially history-making time for SMU. The Mustangs went 11-0-1 in 1982. With a win, this will be the second 11-win season in the program’s history, and it would be the first bowl win since the 2012 season under June Jones. Only bowl since then was the 51-10 Frisco Bowl loss to Louisiana Tech, but that was in a transition from the Chad Morris era to Sonny Dykes. This year’s team is the culmination of a two-year build up.
CFN Podcast: Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl discussion, picks
Why SMU Will Win
– It’s possible to throw on the Florida Atlantic defense, and SMU is certainly going to give it a shot. The Owls were bombed on for 200 yards or more in the first seven games, and have allowed 190 yards or more in every game by two on the season.
Former Texas transfer Shane Buechele has been brilliant as the SMU triggerman, throwing for over 200 yards in every game but the regular season finale against Tulane – he threw for three scores against the Green Wave, though. He doesn’t make a ton of mistakes, he spreads the ball around, and the offense puts up points in a hurry. The O isn’t going to fall flat.
– The O is balanced out be good enough running game to make the Owl defensive front work. Ohio State and UCF were able to run wild on FAU early in the year, and most of the teams on the schedule that could were able to do it when they committed to the ground attack. Mustang senior Xavier Jones ran for 1,249 yards and 21 scores, and caught 21 touchdown passes – he’s going to push for 100 yards.
– Here comes the pass rush. The Florida Atlantic offensive line has been decent at times, but it gives up a whole slew of plays in the backfield – close to eight tackles for loss per game – and SMU can dial up the pressure. The Mustangs lead the nation in sacks, registered 105 tackles for loss, and should be able win their share of battles.
Why Florida Atlantic Will Win
– The defense takes the ball away in bunches. This isn’t a rock of a D – it gives up too many passing yards – but it makes up for most of its problems with big plays and forced mistakes. The Owls lead the nation in takeaways with 31, came up with two or more in nine of the 13 games and 16 times in the last five. SMU isn’t that bad at taking care of the ball, but Shane Buechele isn’t above throwing a few picks.
– FAU QB Chris Robison hasn’t been accurate lately, and he’s not consistent, but he throws for a whole ton of big plays. He failed to complete more than half of his passes in the last two games, but he threw for seven touchdowns in the two, including a four-score day against UAB in the Conference USA Championship. This is a big play attack with the receiving corps to keep up the pace against an SMU secondary that gives up 285 yards per game.
– It’s all about the run defense. SMU’s two losses came in the two games when the offense failed to hit the 100-yard mark. The Memphis game was a passing attack shootout, and the Navy loss was strange because the SMU O didn’t have the ball enough, but that’s the deal for FAU – if the Mustangs aren’t able to run for 100, something is going wrong. The Owls have allowed fewer than 100 yards in five of their last ten games.