The University of Oklahoma will open up their season in less than two weeks. I really don’t think they imagined the game would be as tough of an opener as when it was originally scheduled in 2015. Last year, Lane Kiffin led the Florida Atlantic Owls to a Conference USA Championship and an overall record of 11-3. The Owl’s are the conference favorites again this year and look to find themselves in a much better bowl than 2017’s “Boca Roton Bowl” appearance.
Florida Atlantic is bringing back a ton of talent, and enter 2018 in the top 25 in a few pre-season rankings. This opening game will provide some serious challenges for the Sooners, especially in the first half, where there could be lots of kinks to work out on both sides of the ball. Florida Atlantic returns third team All-American running back Devin Singletary, and ten starters on defense.
Kiffin does have a situation to solve at the quarterback position, picking between two big program caliber signal callers who dealt with some off the field issues at their previous schools. First up is Chris Robison, former Sooner, who’s looking to finally get a chance to play after dismissals from Oklahoma and a brief suspension at Florida Atlantic. The other is De’Andre Johnson, a former FSU top-recruit, who was booted from the team for assaulting a woman. If you’re a “Last Chance U” fan the name might sound familiar. Johnson was the projected starter in 2017, but was sidelined with blood clots in his arm.
Lucky for whoever wins the job that the running game behind them will carry most of the offensive load. Singletary ran for more than 1,900 yards and a massive touchdown total of 32 in 2017. Joining him in the backfield is former Alabama running back B.J Emmons. Both of these players would present a significant challenge to any defense in the country. Florida Atlantic also has a solid wide receiver core. Willie Wright will pair up with former West Virginia wideout Jovon Durante as the two primary receivers. Wright racked up almost 700 yards and six touchdowns in 2017.
On defense, ten returning starters means continuity, and experience that can help the offense if it starts off slow out of the gate. They’re led by star players at each level of the defense. Leighton McCarthy plays defensive end for the Owls, and loves to get after the quarterback. Last season he had 4.5 sacks, and will look to put up even bigger numbers this season.
At Linebacker, they bring back the heart of the defense: Azeez Al-Shaair. Last season, he finished fifth in the nation in tackles with 147. Clearly he has a nose for the football, and puts himself in the right spot on every down to make a play. Azeez passed on a NFL mid-round draft grade, and returned to help the team succeed again in 2018.
Finally, their secondary star is Jalen Young, who’s racked up nearly 250 tackles and 12 total interceptions in his first three years with the Owl’s. He will lead the secondary, which does have some depth issues. But Jalen is a game-changer who demands respect from every signal caller.
The Sooner’s should win this ball game despite their own issues at quarterback. But Florida Atlantic is no joke, and they’re coming to Norman to try and shock the world with a victory. Lincoln Riley vs Lane Kiffin could be an all-time offensive mind battle on paper, but the talent at Oklahoma should help them take down the Owl’s and begin their run at a playoff appearance.