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Kicking the Tires: Florida Atlantic Owls

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Kansas State v Stanford Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

K-State returns to action Saturday after a week off. This week’s opponent is the Florida Atlantic Owls.

FAU is 1-1, with a first-week win over Southern Illinois before a loss to No. 25 Miami. The Owls needed a big third quarter to overcome a halftime deficit before holding on for a 38-30 win over the Salukis. Against Miami, FAU trailed 24-10 going to the fourth quarter before the Hurricanes tacked on two touchdowns for the final margin.

Players to Watch

K-State

Passing: Jesse Ertz, 16-34-1, 207 yards, 6.1 yards/attempt, 1 TD, 207 yards/game

Rushing: Charles Jones, 8 carries, 43 yards, 5.4 yards/carry, 0 TD, 43 yards/game

Receiving: Dominique Heath, 4 receptions, 65 yards, 16.2 yards/reception, 0 TD, 65 yards/game

Florida Atlantic

Passing: Jason Driskell, 41-67-1, 449 yards, 6.7 yards/attempt, 2 TDs, 224.5 yards/game

Rushing: Greg Howell, 35 carries, 203 yards, 5.8 yards/carry, 3 TDs, 101.5 yards/game

Receiving: Kalib Woods, 12 receptions, 181 yards, 15.1 yards/reception, 0 TD, 90.5 yards/game

On a per-attempt basis, FAU’s leading skill-position players have comparable numbers to K-State’s. Given that FAU has played an FCS team that went 3-8 last year and a fringe top 25 team in Miami, that bodes well for K-State.

Despite Howell’s solid numbers above, FAU averages only 2.7 yards per carry as a team. The Owls have allowed nine sacks for 48 yards lost through two games. Even adjusted for sacks, the Owls gain only 3.6 yards per carry. Combine the rushing-game numbers and the sack count, and K-State’s defensive line should make life difficult for the FAU offense.

Advanced Stats

K-State

FAU

S&P+

79

95

S&P+ Offense

77

110

Rush Success Rate

85

116

Rush IsoPPP

79

32

Opp Rate

66

119

Power Success Rate

122

25

Stuff Rate

80

125

Pass Success Rate

119

117

Pass IsoPPP

99

57

Standard Downs Success Rate

124

114

Passing Downs Success Rate

56

97

S&P+ Defense

44

72

Rush Success Rate

6

93

Rush IsoPPP

127

113

Opp Rate

11

82

Power Success Rate

1

108

Stuff Rate

10

104

Pass Success Rate

108

103

Pass IsoPPP

72

32

Standard Downs Success Rate

27

99

Passing Downs Success Rate

48

102

Let’s talk about this for a minute. I’m not Mr. Run The Damn Ball Guy. And one game isn’t nearly enough to make conclusive statements from advanced stats. And K-State was playing from behind the whole game against Stanford. But the Wildcats are 124th nationally in success rate on Standard Downs. They also rank 79th nationally in run percentage on Standard Downs. It might behoove the Cats to try and establish the run on those downs.

FAU doesn’t do much of anything well on defense, but they’re decent at limiting big pass plays. Owl opponents have been efficient in both phases and explosive running the ball. Again, might be a good idea to give K-State’s offensive line a chance to get Charles Jones, Justin Silmon and Dalvin Warmack going.

K-State’s defense looks even better under the advanced-stats microscope. Against a team that prides itself on pounding the ball, K-State stuffed everything and gave up only two big plays rushing. Against a passer who’s not as accurate as Ryan Burns, it’s possible K-State’s pass defense looks more efficient.

Conclusion

Playing a team like Stanford in the opener can mess up your fan sensibilities. We’re accustomed to seeing K-State roll against overmatched opponents early in the season. So maybe I’m overreacting, but this feels like a game where we need to start seeing things come together for K-State, particularly on offense. It could just be the long, miserable offensive season last year that’s making me impatient. But I want to see the Jesse Ertz and Byron Pringle I saw in the spring game. And pairing that with a competent rushing attack would be nice.

S&P still doesn’t like K-State, mostly based on last year. Connelly projects the Wildcats to win, but only 31-21. Giving up 21 to FAU would be a minor disaster, which I don’t expect to see.

Miami is 31st in Connelly’s S&P, which may be a bit high, but the Hurricanes project as approximately the type of team K-State would like to field this year. The U more than doubled FAU’s yardage output last week and was in control throughout, even if the game looked relatively close through three quarters. Saturday’s game could be a lot like that.

Wildcats 35, Owls 13