Where: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens
TV: ESPNU 8 p.m. EST [Watch online link]
Online: SunSentinel.com/sports/um-hurricanes, SunSentinel.com/sports/fau-owls
Twitter: @dkurtenbach, #TheU, #FAU
Quick Slant: Friday marks the first-ever matchup between the two South Florida programs. Miami, with ACC championship aspirations, is eying an emphatic win to start the season. An FAU win would inarguably be the largest in program history.
About UM: The Hurricanes start the season outside of the Top 25, but with quarterback Stephen Morris and running back Duke Johnson returning to Coral Gables, expectations are high for the Hurricanes in 2013. A strong offensive line allows one of the nation’s better offenses do work, but the team will go as far as it’s much-maligned defense takes them.
About FAU: The Owls enter the second season of the Carl Pelini era looking to build off a 3-9 season. FAU is moving to a read-option spread offense, but will still rely on wide receiver and Dillard grad William Dukes to burn defenses over the top. The Owls boast secondary and linebacker cores that compare strongly against the nation’s mid-major teams.
What To Watch:
1. Both FAU and Miami are looking for vast year-to-year improvement from their defensive line. FAU had only 12 sacks last season (118th nationally), but Miami was only one better with 13 (115th nationally).
2. FAU is one of five teams in the nation who will enter the 2013 season without a quarterback who played the season before. FAU is not going to name a starting quarterback ahead of kickoff, but whether it’s Jaquez Johnson or freshman Greg Hankerson, the Owls’ quarterback will be a rookie Friday.
3. Morris ended the 2012 season on a hot streak. Morris threw for 11 touchdowns in his final four games of 2012 and entering his senior season, he’s carrying a streak of 139 pass attempts without an interception. Against an FAU pass defense which was one of the better mid-major units in the country last season, a continuation of that hot play could bode that bigger things are coming for Morris on 2013.
-- Dieter Kurtenbach
The Guide: FAU - Miami
Stephen Morris, Jaquez Johnson (top) and Gregory Hankerson are all expected to play Friday night.