Ohio State football: 5 things to know about the Florida Atlantic Owls

Ohio State football kicks off the season Saturday against Florida Atlantic at noon at Ohio Stadium.

Who are the Owls?

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Here is what you need to know about a team with a well-known coach and a relatively new program:

1. Florida Atlantic is a member of Conference USA.

Founded in 1961, FAU is a public university in Boca Raton with more than 30,000 students.

The Owls adopted football in 2001, competing at the FCS level when it was known as NCAA Division I-AA. They moved up to I-A (now FBS) in 2005.

Florida Atlantic and Ohio State have never played before.

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The Owls, who are only in their 19th year as a football program, have only played against two teams from the Buckeye State in the past.

They lost to Youngstown State in 2002 and beat the Penguins a year later. Both of those games came when they were still in the FCS.

Two years ago, FAU crushed Akron 50-3 in the Boca Raton Bowl.

2. The Owls were picked third in the C-USA East preseason media poll.

They received three first-place votes while Marshall received 14 and FIU got nine.

Coach Lane Kiffin’s team finished fifth in the division last year with a record of 3-5.

The Owls went 5-7 after a surprising 2017 (Kiffin’s first as head coach of the Owls) in which they went 11-3 and won their league.

3. FAU returns seven starters on offense, including All-C-USA tight end Harrison Bryant.

Bryant, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound senior, is a two-year starter with who caught 45 passes for 662 yards and four touchdowns last season.

Quarterback Chris Robison, a 6-1, 177-pound redshirt freshman last season, returns at quarterback. The Texas native, who transferred from Oklahoma, completed 192 of 304 passes for 2,540 yards last season with 12 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions.

FAU returns three starters on the offensive line and two starting receivers but will be breaking in a new No. 1 running back.

The Owls ranked 49th nationally in Football Outsiders Offensive S&P+, an overall measurement comparable to OPS in baseball. They had an emphasis on big plays over efficiency.

4. The defense has six starters back and a new coordinator.

Glenn Spencer takes over a unit that struggled last season, ranking 82nd nationally in Defensive S&P+. The Owls were a little below average in both success rate (78th) and IsoPPP+ 70th), a measure of explosiveness, last season.

He was the defensive coordinator at Charlotte last season after 10 years as an assistant at Oklahoma State, where new Ohio State passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Yurcich was also on staff from 2013-18.

The unit Spencer coached last season was statistically worse than FAU’s as the 49ers were 98th in Defensive S&P+. Charlotte posted similar rankings in success rate (79th) and IsoPPP+ (74th).

In his five seasons as defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, the Cowboys had an average S&P+ ranking of 42.4.

Leading tackler Rashad Smith, a 6-2, 210-pound senior linebacker, headlines the returning Owls on defense.

5. There are some familiar names on the coaching staff.

The son of legendary NFL defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, Lane has made his name on the offensive side of the ball. He spent six seasons (2001-06) as an assistant for Pete Carroll at USC, including two as offensive coordinator, before flopping as a head coach with the Oakland Raiders. He returned to college as the head coach at Tennessee for one season before jumping at the chance to replace Carroll as head coach in 2010.

The younger Kiffin was fired midway through the 2013 season and rehabilitated his career as offensive coordinator for Nick Saban at Alabama from 2014-16.

His offensive coordinator is Charlie Weis Jr., the son of former Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis.

Monte Kiffin is a defensive analyst and pro liaison for the Owls.

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