Sept. 18, 2012
The Florida Atlantic football team will face their highest-ranked opponent in the program's short history on Saturday.
After falling this past week to No. 7 Georgia, 56-20, the Owls finish up their back-to-back slate of extremely tough road games against top-ranked and Southeastern Conference opponents when they face the consensus number-one team in the land, the Alabama Crimson Tide.
"They're just efficient, they're a typical (head coach Nick) Saban team," said coach Carl Pelini. "They don't beat themselves, they don't make mistakes, they don't miss assignments, they don't drop balls, they don't fumble, and (Saban) makes the right reads. They're not real intricate, but they just execute."
Alabama has won their first three games by a combined score of 128-14. Last week, they defeated SEC West rival Arkansas at the Razorbacks' home stadium - a team ranked 10th in the preseason - by the score of 52-0. The Crimson Tide's ranking is the highest of any FBS opponent that the Owls have ever faced. That distinction was previously held by No. 6 USF, on October 6, 2007.
FAU does bring some momentum into Saturday: playing even with Georgia for a quarter and half (it was a 14-14 game during the second quarter), and for a time, quieting down 92,000+ fans at Sanford Stadium. Pelini believes this is something to build on.
"My biggest message to our players is it doesn't matter what `they' do, it matters what we do," he said. "That's something I can point to. Look what happens when we do what we're supposed to do, we can be pretty good. Anytime you can have that success against a good team, it's a good learning lesson for our guys. But by no means should they be satisfied."
Pelini also was very complimentary of quarterback Graham Wilbert's play. So far this season, the redshirt senior has completed 68 percent of his passes, and ranks fourth in the Sun Belt Conference in passing efficiency (143.6) and seventh passing yards per game (189.7).
"Graham is a smart guy, he's like having a coach on the field," said Pelini. "He understands this offense. (Offensive coordinator) Brian (Wright's) passing game is really `take what they give you;' understanding the weaknesses of the different coverages you see. That's perfect for Graham because he's so smart and analytical. He's out there, not making bad reads, and he knows where to go with the football. That's 90 percent the battle with this offense."
Game time in Tuscaloosa on Saturday is 5 p.m. Live audio and statistics will be available at www.fausports.com. Updates from the press box before and during the game can be found at the official Twitter handle of the athletics department, @FAUOwlAthletics.