A few thoughts going into USF-FAU ...
Couple of things I haven't gotten to this week, and I'll start with a question a few of you asked, wondering if Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger ever coached against Skip Holtz's father, Lou. Skip said this week he had never crossed paths with Schnellenberger, though he showed admiration for the work he's done in his coaching career. Schnellenberger, 76, couldn't remember if he'd ever faced the elder Holtz, thinking he might have when Holtz was coaching at Notre Dame.
Amazingly, in a combined 679 games as college head coaches (and another 14 combined seasons as college assistants) the two coaching legends never met in a college game. They did, however, meet twice during the 1976 NFL season, when Holtz was head coach of the New York Jets and Schnellenberger was offensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins. Turnovers doomed Holtz's Jets, who lost 16-0 with five turnovers and 27-7 with four turnovers, and that's the only time the two have met despite coaching simultaneously for 45 years. (Holtz got his first college job in 1960 at Iowa; Schnellenberger in 1959 at Kentucky.)
-- Next, there have been interesting discussions surrounding two questionable late-game decisions by Schnellenberger in FAU's last two losses. A fair amount has been written on the FAU beat, with good reason. Trailing Michigan State by 16 points with 2:53 to go and the ball on the Spartans' 6-yard line, Schnellenberger opted to kick a field goal -- which serves almost no purpose, since a 13-point deficit still requires two scores in the final three minutes. Just as the controversy from that call was settling down, the Owls scored a late touchdown against North Texas to pull within 21-16 with 6:52 to play. There's almost no difference between trailing by five points and four points that late in a game -- even if UNT hit a field goal, you still can tie with a touchdown and two-point conversion. There's every reason to go for two and potentially get within a field goal, but Schnellenberger kicked the extra point and lost by four points. (FAU got the ball back for a final drive, but quarterback Jeff Van Camp was intercepted on the first play.)
-- If USF is able to build a solid lead on the Owls, this isn't a team you want to take your foot off the gas against. In their opener against UAB (the same UAB that took Tennessee to double overtime in Knoxville), FAU trailed 14-0, and later 28-12 midway through the third quarter, but they rallied back with three touchdowns to take a 32-31 lead. (Schnellenberger correctly went for two there but didn't get it.) UAB marched down the field and had a first-and-goal at the 7, but the Owls defense stepped up, allowing a 2-yard gain, then dropping UAB for losses on back-to-back plays. UAB lined up for a 28-yard game-winner, but FAU blocked it as time expired.
-- So what would your gameplan be if you were Todd Fitch? Teams have run all over the Owls, as we've mentioned all week, but as a result, FAU has the No. 2 pass defense in the country, allowing only 122 yards per game through the air. Does the suspension of corner Tavious Polo make USF more likely to test the Owls' secondary? It makes sense that USF would want to show more of an offensive balance, both to give B.J. Daniels and his receivers confidence and also to keep Syracuse guessing as to how to stop the Bulls next week.
-- One last note: FAU has one of my favorite names in college football in freshman linebacker Yourhighness Morgan. USF looked at him when he was at South Sumter High, where Richard Kelly and Ben Moffitt played before becoming Bulls. Morgan has six tackles for the Owls ...