Florida Atlantic coach Lane Kiffin really doesn't want to play Ohio State, so much so that when asked if there were any good reasons to play the Buckeyes, he initially provided a one-word answer.
He expanded on his thoughts in a Monday interview. "Obviously, I didn't schedule these," Kiffin said. "These were scheduled before we got here, from the last Athletic Director [Pat Chun]."
Kiffin's desire to avoid the Buckeyes is due to more than just the fact that his Owls are nearly a 30-point underdog. The week after their trip to Columbus, FAU will take on Central Florida, giving a team looking to bounce back from a 5-7 season in 2018 one of the toughest schedules to start this year of any team in the country.
"Your hope is with an early kickoff it is not quite as loud early on as a night game," Kiffin mused about coming to Ohio Stadium. "Hopefully, they will arrive a little late and be nice to us."
While he's been pretty open about wishing Chun (a former Buckeye who is now the AD at Washington State) had not scheduled OSU, Kiffin has been less forthcoming about naming a starting quarterback.
Reporters that cover the team say the heavy favorite to win the job is Chris Robison, a sophomore who started all but one game last year. (He saw limited time versus Louisiana Tech, due to illness.) Robison was both fairly accurate, completing 63.2 percent of his passes, but also turnover prone. He threw 12 picks to go along with his 12 touchdowns.
That lack of ball security, plus the fact that Robison missed spring ball while the school investigated an assault accusation that ultimately did not lead to charges, has Kiffin indicating he might also play Nick Tronti...but not "on purpose."
"I wouldn't necessarily say on purpose, but I can definitely see playing multiple quarterbacks," he said.
One advantage that Robison holds over Tronti is that Robison, along with 22-year-old, Australian true freshman Matt Hayball, who took up the sport one year ago, are the team's punters. Robison has punted six times in college, and--in addition to holding the school's record* for passing yards in a game (471 yards against Air Force)--he also holds the record for average yards per punt in a season (54.67 yards).
Whoever throws the ball will almost definitely find Harrison Bryant. The First-Team Conference USA tight end has caught a pass in all but one game the past two years.
Defensively, the Owls lost four of their seven top tacklers from a year ago, and they feature a new defensive coordinator in Glenn Spencer.
They do, however, return the player who led the team in tackles (86) and interceptions (4) in 2018, linebacker Rashad Smith.
Other nuggets on the Owls:
- According to 247Sports, FAU had the conference's top recruiting class two of the past three years.
- There are no players listed on the Owls roster that hail from the state of Ohio.
- The program is only 18 years old. (Thus the asterisk* on the school records mentioned above.)
- Running back James Charles is the cousin of Buckeye receiver Binjimen Victor.