EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the 12th in a series of previews on West Virginia and Marshall football opponents.
Date with Marshall: Saturday, Oct. 12, 5 p.m. (Fox College Sports)
Site: FAU Stadium (29,419, grass), Boca Raton, Fla.
Series: First meeting
Coach: Carl Pelini (second season, 3-9)
Checking them out
After spending three seasons on Frank Solich's staff at Ohio and four years reviving the "Blackshirts" at Nebraska, Carl Pelini guides his Owls in year two of the post-Howard Schnellenberger era and into Conference USA. He is trying to capitalize on a shiny stadium in its third season.
Problem is, the Owls are just 3-7 in that $70 million building, with one of the wins a 7-3 squeaker over Wagner in Pelini's debut. Their 2013 recruiting class was ranked sixth in C-USA, and they'll need some of the newcomers to jump right into the fray.
But the Owls do have some returning talent, notably wide receiver William Dukes (63 catches for 979 yards with four TDs) and tight end Nexon Dorvilus (30-301, 5 TDs) on offense. Despite its best efforts, FAU averaged a tick less than 21 points a game - no way to live in the Sun Belt or C-USA.
That led Pelini to bring in a new offensive coordinator from Montana State, Brian Wright. He's directing a heated quarterback battle between Quez Johnson and Melvin Germain III, with Germain surging ahead in late spring. Both have nimble feet and probably need them - the Owls' leaky offensive front allowed 28 sacks last year.
Jonathan Wallace (175 carries for 668 yards with six TDs) returns in the backfield, and he needs a little blocking, too. He averaged 3.8 yards per carry; the team averaged 3.4. Oh, Alfred Morris, where art thou?
Pelini's first defense held seven foes under 400 total yards, but still struggled against the run. Linebacker Andrae Kirk (70 tackles, four for loss) is the top returning tackle, while linebacker Randell Johnson is expected to be healthy and able to fulfill his potential.
Sean Kelly, who had a fair amount of practice with 68 punts, placed 16 inside the 50-yard line.
Offense: TE Nexon Dorvilus, WR William Dukes, WR Daniel McKinney, C Mustafa Johnson
Defense: LB Andrae Kirk, LB Randell Johnson
Special teams: P Sean Kelly
If you're located in Boca Raton, you might as well have as many premium seats as you can pack into your new stadium. Count 'em - 24 suites, 26 loge boxes, 1,000 premier club seats and 4,000 priority club seats. The press box even has a view of the Atlantic Ocean, a few miles to the east. . . . The university had to back out of a $6 million naming-rights deal for the stadium from GEO Group, a private prison operator. That immediately drew the "Owlcatraz" nickname. . . . The school more or less inherited the Owls nickname years before football, when the campus was named a burrowing owl sanctuary by the Audubon Society in 1971.
Date Opponent 2012
Aug. 31 at Miami DNP
Sept. 5 at E. Carolina* (Thurs.) DNP
Sept. 14 at South Florida DNP
Sept. 21 vs. Mid. Tennessee* L 17-31
Sept. 28 at Rice* DNP
Oct. 5 at UAB* DNP
Oct. 12 Marshall* DNP
Oct. 26 at Auburn* DNP
Nov. 2 at Tulsa* DNP
Nov. 9 Tulane* DNP
Nov. 16 at Southern Miss* DNP
Nov. 23 vs. Fla. International* L 25-35
* Conference USA games
2012 record: 3-9 (2-6 Sun Belt, T-8th)
Dropped: Wagner (W 7-3), Georgia (L 20-56), Alabama (L 7-40), North Texas (L 14-20), Louisiana-Monroe (L 14-35), South Alabama (L 34-37, 2 OT), Troy (W 34-27), Navy (L 17-24), Western Kentucky (W 37-28), Louisiana-Lafayette (L 21-35)