A matchup of the two most recent Conference USA champions could have been like a title bout between two prized fighters, but instead, FAU (10-3, 7-1 Conference USA) knocked UAB (9-4, 6-2 Conference USA) out early en route to a 49-6 victory. If the Owls were distracted by coaching rumors surrounding Lane Kiffin, it certainly did not show.
Chris Robison passed for 299 yards and four touchdowns, BJ Emmons rushed for two scores and the defense controlled UAB from the start in a game that was never remotely close. FAU had over 500 yards of offense while UAB was limited to just 223 yards. UAB had two turnovers with just 13 first downs to show for their effort. FAU had an even offensive output with over 286 rushing yards as a team, and 299 passing yards. Emmons There was no aspect of the game that favored UAB, the defending Conference USA champions from 2018. This was a flat-out stomping by the Owls.
Things definitely got chippy as the game continued, leaving UAB head coach Bill Clark searching for answers after a rather undisciplined season from the Blazers. UAB averaged just over 69 penalty yards per game this season and was flagged 11 times for 83 yards in this one. This was certainly a frustrating way to see this season end for Clark and the Blazers, although they will still be heading to a bowl game for a chance to end the season on a winning note. The fact UAB has a shot at a 10-win season is still a remarkable show of just how great a job Clark continues to be doing with his program.
The future of Kiffin will now be a significant story. With the Conference USA championship behind him, reports that Kiffin could be close to finalizing a deal to become the next head coach at Ole Miss could move across the finish line. Kiffin has a record of 26-13 at FAU with two Conference USA championships in his three seasons with the program. Success at FAU was always likely to lead to Kiffin receiving offers from some power conference programs, so it was only a matter of time before this inevitably unfolded. For Kiffin, a chance to return to the SEC, where he was briefly the head coach of Tennessee and worked under Nick Saban as an offensive coordinator prior to his arrival at FAU, will certainly be among the biggest coaching headlines of the offseason.
Whether Kiffin sticks around to coach FAU in the bowl game remains to be seen.
UPDATE (5:44 p.m. ET): Kiffin has officially been announced as the next head coach at Ole Miss.
Months after contemplating his future, former Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois will walk-on with the FAU Owls. According to a report from 247 Sports, Francois will attempt to enroll at FAU as soon as possible to begin the process of officially joining Lane Kiffin and the Owls.
Francois was dismissed by Florida State in February by head coach Willie Taggart, with the second-year head coach of the Seminoles attempting to improve the culture of his latest football program. Francois has been cleared of a domestic assault accusation in Jan. 2018, and he had previously had a legal issue involving suspected possession of marijuana. A video shared by Francois’s girlfriend showed a man threatening her, with the man said to have been Francois One day after being dismissed by Florida State, Francois was officially entered in the NCAA transfer portal to begin weighing his options for his future.
Kiffin is no stranger to giving players another chance to play FBS football. He has been making a habit of it during his brief time in Boca Raton with the Owls. Kiffin has welcomed players from troubled pasts to build his depth on the roster, including former Oklahoma quarterback Chris Robison and a number of players who appeared in the Netflix documentary “Last Chance U.” Kiffin has been actively adding players via transfers on top of his normal recruiting efforts and the plan has worked with a Conference USA title in 2017 and a team seemingly capable of making another run to the conference title in 2019.
That is why it may seem odd that Kiffin took a bit of a jab at the transfer portal earlier in the offseason, calling it a “sexy thing to do” for players. As it turns out, however, Kiffin may have just landed another potential starting quarterback through the transfer portal.
Francois played in 11 games for Florida State in 2018, passing for 2,731 yards and 15 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. He has two years of eligibility remaining.
The 2018 season has not quite gone according to plan for defending Conference USA champion FAU, but head coach Lane Kiffin is hoping to make a big push in the second half to get a chance to defend the conference title. That quest begins Friday evening in Boca Raton as the Owls host Louisiana Tech in a crossover division matchup, and Kiffin is hoping to get as many students in the stands as possible.
In an effort to try making that happen, FAU is shutting down classes tomorrow beginning at noon, allowing for plenty of time for students to take care of whatever they need to take care of before filing into the stands for the game. Kiffin announced the news via Twitter, inviting all FAU students to come out to the game against the Bulldogs.
All three of FAU’s wins this season have come at home, including FAU’s only Conference USA win against Old Dominion. The Owls are 1-2 in Conference USA and trailing four teams in the East Division; FIU, Middle Tennessee, Marshall, and Charlotte. FAU also loses head-to-head tiebreakers against Middle Tennessee and Marshall. From this point on, FAU may need to win all of their remaining games in order to have a chance to play for a second straight Conference USA championship.
FAU hosts Louisiana Tech on Friday night at 6:30 p.m. ET.
At Conference USA media day, the FAU Owls were voted as the preseason favorite to repeat as the conference champion. You would think Lane Kiffin would have his plate full talking about his team’s quest for a second straight conference title, but the most popular coach in the conference found himself sounding off on a handful of topics outside Conference USA.
A day after UNC head coach Larry Fedora made headlines with his comments about the possibility that the state of football could be in danger of bringing down the country and showed himself to be skeptical of the link between football and CTE. Kiffin took a different stance on Fedora’s idea of a war on football threatening the stability of the United States.
“What’s the most important thing,” Kiffin questioned. “Long-term health, or how the game looks?”
Fedora took exception to the abundant changes to the game with rules being designed to protect the health of players. He has not been alone in his complaints about how the game is changing, but Kiffin expressed a different take on the importance of changing the game than his ACC counterpart.
Looking ahead to the season, though, Kiffin fielded some questions about FAU’s first opponent, defending Big 12 champion Oklahoma. Already keeping an eye on the opposition, Kiffin joked he thinks likely starting quarterback for the Sooners, Kyler Murray, should go ahead and skip football to begin his professional baseball career after being drafted ninth overall in the MLB Draft by the Oakland Athletics. But, sticking to the previous comments in regard to Fedora’s comments, Kiffin used Murray to expand on the long-term health concerns Murray could potentially face by not going right into baseball.
“He should change his mind and go to baseball,” Kiffin said. “It’s crazy that he doesn’t go play (baseball) this year. Think of all the concussion issues that are out there with college football and the NFL. He should go play baseball.”
FAU received 22 first-place votes in a Conference USA preseason media poll to easily be named the favorite in the East Division. The Owls open the 2018 season at Oklahoma on September 1.
The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has been a joy to watch over the course of the first few days. Highlighted by some significant upsets and some thrilling finishes, this year’s tournament has everybody talking, including college football coaches. This is especially true for college football’s non-power conference programs, who seem to be celebrating the upsets performed early on by schools like Marshall, Loyola-Chicago and, of course, UMBC.
UCF took to Twitter to extend congratulations to the University of Maryland Baltimore County after the 16-seed Retrievers became the first team in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament’s history to upset a No. 1 seed, in which UMBC throttled No. 1 Virginia by 20 after an unbelievable second-half performance that left Virginia clueless how to respond.
UMBC has been the story of the first round for the historic upset of the Cavaliers, but FAU head coach Lane Kiffin claims he picked UMBC to win the game. In fact, Kiffin showed off a bracket in which he picked UMBC to win it all. Of course, such a bracket cannot be taken too seriously, especially after closer inspection reveals Kiffin went heavy with the underdog mentality throughout his bracket. Perhaps such a bracket strategy plays into the kind of mentality Kiffin is attempting to build at FAU.
Troy coach Neal Brown also used the UMBC upset to make a case for the Group of Five representation in college football to get more of a fair shake in the sport of college football.
Brown is not the only person to have this thought, although the idea has just as many on the other side of the fence as well. The College Football Playoff is a much smaller system to determine a college football champion and expansion is a hot-button topic of conversation for a variety of reasons. The current format allows for one guaranteed spot in a major bowl game for the highest-ranked conference champion from the non-power conferences, but undefeated UCF was still left out of the College Football Playoff last season and it may be a long time before a non-power conference champion gets a shot at the playoff.
Washington State head coach Mike Leach has proposed a 64-team college football playoff, but the most likely step for expansion of the playoff system will double the field to eight teams. That would still likely leave out some top non-power conference options, but it would leave the door open just a little wider for a team like UCF last year.