College football preview 2018: 10 unranked teams most likely to surprise

Lane Kiffin, Florida Atlantic Owls. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Lane Kiffin, Florida Atlantic Owls. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images) /
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Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images /

Lane Kiffin led Florida Atlantic to the best season in program history, with 11 wins and the first conference title since the school joined Division I-A in 2004. After setting such a high bar in his first year with the program, how can Lane Kiffin improve in 2018?

For starters, he’s making sure the Owls won’t rest on their laurels after a season of success. Kiffin ordered a 2017 banner removed from outside the team’s practice facility and he’s taking a line from Nick Saban, who he refers to as “his mentor”, to address praise and media attention getting into his team’s head. That attention and distraction is called ‘rat poison’.

This probably qualifies as rat poison itself but… the Owls are going to be very good again this year. The offense will start with running back Devin Singletary who had 1,918 yards and 32 touchdowns on the ground as a sophomore. Two of the team’s leading receivers are back in Willie Wright and Harry Bryant and West Virginia transfer, Jovon Durante adds another deep threat.

Expected to start at quarterback is De’Andre Johnson a transfer who saw action in a handful of games last year before medical issues forced him to sit out. If that name sounds familiar, you might remember him as a former four-star who started his career at Florida State before a video of him punching a woman at a bar surfaced and he was dismissed. He played a season at East Mississippi Community College and starred in Netflix’s Last Chance U before landing at FAU last year.

The biggest question mark on either side of the ball is the offensive line. FAU will be replacing multiple starters from last year and will have to sort that out to protect a first-year starting quarterback. Even with a new defensive coordinator in Tony Pecoraro, FAU should be as good if not better than last season on defense with all 12 of the top tacklers from last season returning.

FAU has a tough conference schedule this year and before they even start it, they have three non-conference games against Oklahoma, Air Force and UCF. They’ll be completely outmatched by Oklahoma and most likely UCF, but expect Kiffin to pull out all the stops, trick plays, etc. and make it as entertaining as possible.