SMU vs. Florida Atlantic: Boca Raton Bowl preview and picks against the spread

SMU (10-2) vs. Florida Atlantic (10-3)

Location: Boca Raton, Florida | When: Dec. 21 (3:30 p.m. ET) | TV: ABC | Line: SMU -3.5

HOW THESE TEAMS GOT HERE

SMU: The Mustangs had a roaring start with eight wins to begin 2019. SMU broke into the Top 25 after its fifth win of the season and then beat Tulsa, Temple and Houston before climbing as high as No. 15 in the AP poll. The undefeated run ended in a 54-48 defeat to eventual AAC champion Memphis. SMU beat East Carolina the following week before losing another thriller, this time to Navy. The Mustangs hit 10 wins for the first time since 1984 with a win over Tulane in the final week of the season. 

FAU: FAU opened the season losing by 24 to Ohio State and then by 34 to UCF. Things got a lot better from there. The Owls never scored fewer than 28 points in any game the rest of the season as they went 9-1 over the next 10 games. The six consecutive wins at the end of the season won FAU the Conference USA East division and earned a spot in the conference title game against UAB. That was a blowout as FAU beat the Blazers 49-6 and Lane Kiffin left a short time later to officially become Ole Miss’ new head coach. 

Florida Atlantic quarterback Chris Robison has thrown for 26 TDs in 2019. (AP Photo/Jim Rassol)

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH

This game should feature a lot of offense. Both teams were in the top 20 in points per game and feature creativity and dynamism on the offensive side of the ball. We may even get a Lane Kiffin interview during the game too if ESPN can get it set up.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

SMU RB Xavier Jones: The Mustangs throw the ball a lot. QB Shane Buechele has thrown over 440 passes. But Jones has been the most productive player on the SMU offense, especially in the red zone. He’s rushed for 1,249 yards and has scored 23 total touchdowns. Jones has broken the 100-yard mark in eight games in 2019. SMU won all eight of those games. 

FAU QB Chris Robison: The former Oklahoma signee has made good on his second chance at college football’s top level in Boca Raton. Robison has thrown for 3,392 yards and completed over 60 percent of his passes in 2019 while tossing 26 touchdowns and six interceptions. The former four-star recruit is in his second year as FAU’s starter after he was dismissed from Oklahoma in 2017.

SMU running back Xavier Jones has scored 23 TDs. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

NFL DRAFT PROSPECT

Florida Atlantic TE Harrison Bryant: Tough call here, as there are several intriguing mid-round prospects playing in this game, including SMU WR James Proche. But we’ll go with one of our favorite studies during our 2020 draft prep to this point in Bryant, the Mackey Award winner who has the ability to make catches down the seam. He also has improved his blocking and has a shot to be drafted somewhere in the third or fourth round.

— Eric Edholm

WHAT’S ON THE LINE

SMU: SMU hasn’t won a bowl game since it won the Hawaii Bowl at the end of the 2012 season. More importantly, the Mustangs haven’t won 11 games since that famous 1981 11-0-1 campaign. A victory on Saturday would be the program’s third season with more than 10 wins. 

FAU: A win would be FAU’s second 11-win season in three years and a fitting way to cap Kiffin’s tenure with the school before Willie Taggart officially takes over. That 11-3 season in 2017 also ended with a win in the Boca Raton Bowl. FAU should have the home-field advantage, even if SMU is favored in this game.

PICKS

Sam Cooper: SMU -3.5

Nick Bromberg: SMU -3.5

Picks from the Yahoo Sports College Podcast

Pat Forde: SMU -3.5

Pete Thamel: SMU -3.5

Dan Wetzel: FAU +3.5

Sean Sullivan: SMU -3.5

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