GAINESVILLE (CBSMiami) - You have to be a pretty big Owls fan, and be willing to ignore a bunch of stats, to believe FAU will leave the Swamp victorious when they take on the Florida Gators Saturday at 7. But stranger things have happened in football, and hope springs eternal.
Florida has a lot at stake. They start the game with a new coach, and they hope to get the Will Muschamp era off to a strong start. Muschamp replaced two-time national champion Urban Meyer in December. Everybody wants to know what this team will look like under his leadership, but they'll have to tune in or buy a ticket to find out. He closed spring practice for the first time in school history, saying it's his only shot at surprising early season opponents, like FAU tonight.
FAU goes into to the game wondering what the new Gators will look like, and they too have a lot at stake. This is the final year for Howard Schnellenberger, the legendary coach who built the Owls program, and the players want to make his last season a great one. Winning against Florida, in the Swamp, would be a great start.
It would hurt their gridiron cred, either.
Florida RBs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey will be keys to watch against FAU's defense. Demps and Rainey are two of the fastest backs in the country. They also are two of the smallest, and how the 180-pounders hold up could be the key to Florida's season.
FAU's Martin Wright will be a player to watch Saturday. The junior from Miami originally committed to Florida, but his arrest on felony burglary and kidnapping charges in January 2007 ended any shot at playing for the Gators. He spent four months in jail, six months at a boot camp and about a year under house arrest. Wright got a second chance at FAU and now has something to prove. "I'm here. I didn't go anywhere. It was just a little stumbling block. I'm back on the road.
FACTS & FIGURES
This is the first game in FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger's farewell season. He announced his retirement last month. ... FAU RB Alfred Morris has 2,320 yards rushing and 18 TDs the last two years. But he hasn't topped 100 yards on the ground in any of his six games against teams from the six major conferences. ... The Gators have won 21 consecutive season openers. .Florida has 35 freshmen and 36 sophomores, making it one of the youngest teams in the country.
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