Who: FAU v. ULM
When: Saturday, Oct. 12, 8:00 p.m.
Where: Malone Stadium
All-time series: 2-6 record
Score prediction: 47-13
Coming out of the bye week with four straight losses, the Owls get set to face a Louisiana-Monroe squad which is turning into America’s darlings.
Amidst the often overlooked Sun Belt conference, ULM has caught some national attention. To start off the season, Louisiana-Monroe had to face the Arkansas Razorbacks, ranked No. 8 in preseason polls. ULM came into that matchup a 30 point underdog. They would go on to defeat the Razorbacks 34-31 in overtime.
A dangerously close game against Auburn (ending in a ULM overtime loss, 31-28) and a loss in a neck-and-neck contest against Baylor (47-42) thrust ULM into the national spotlight, even having ESPN base an All Access episode on them (aired on ESPNU). Dan Margulis, ESPN senior director of programming and acquisitions, has even referred to them as “one of the stories of the year.”
Meanwhile, in FAU’s last game, against North Texas, the Owls had their inability to score further exposed. Granted, the defensive lineup of the Mean Green is relatively solid (allowing 25.8 points per contest, good for 62nd in the nation), but the Owls still put an unimpressive 14 points on the scoreboard.
There is some positive to be taken from the loss to North Texas. The Owls’ defensive front came to life, allowing just 50 total rushing yards to the Mean Green. There were also some good signs from FAU’s side of the running game, with the Owls managing to score twice on the ground (though only collecting 159 total rushing yards in the process). Considering that ULM allows more points than North Texas (27.2 per game), there is reasonable hope for a good performance from FAU’s running back core.
That’s just about where the good news ends for the Owls.
Though their defense is in the Mean Green range statistically, Louisiana-Monroe is a mark of efficiency in practically every other category. Through 5 games, ULM is ranked in the nation’s top 20 in offensive output. They’re ranked 12th in passing yards, to the tune of 316.4 yards per contest. They also rank 19th in points scored at 39.6 per outing.
Yes, the ULM defense does allow teams to score (three out of their previous five opponents have scored 20 or more points), but FAU’s offensive production is stalling to this point. The Owls have managed 782 yards in the air. In comparison, ULM’s starting QB Kolton Browning has amassed 1,459 yard with 12 touchdowns in five contests.
Juxtaposed with the Owls defensive ability, the odds for any sort of competitive game begin to quickly shrink. FAU has allowed 30 points per game to this point in the season. Hidden in the details of that number is an even more concerning fact: The Owls allowed 31 points from the middling Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee. With ULM’s Browning being given the green light to pass early and often, the prospects of a blowout (in favor of ULM) look more and more real.
If FAU’s running game gains some early momentum, they might be able to put 20 points on the board (accomplished once so far). Otherwise, this game will not be close. ULM is on an offensive tear and should be able to easily victimize FAU with the long pass to either one of ULM’s dangerous wide receiver tandem of Brent Leonard (38 receptions, 374 yards) or Je’Ron Hamm (20 receptions, 346).
With Leonard and Hamm averaging 9.8 and 17.3 yards per reception, respective, look for the long ball to put this game away early.