Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields won't face a defensive juggernaut in his first career start this Saturday.
When he steps on the field with an offense he's expected to guide to playoff contention, he'll be going against a defense that was routinely gashed a season ago.
That defense belongs to FAU, and thanks to the disastrous results on the field last fall, it went under a transition this offseason. Out is former defensive coordinator Tony Pecoraro, who held the position for exactly nine months. Pecoraro was replaced by Glenn Spencer, a defensive coach who spent a decade at Oklahoma State before a recent stint at Charlotte.
Spencer had his work cut out for him when he arrived at FAU. The defense lost four of its top-performing linemen and two key linebackers. The new candidates behind those starters are all young and short on experience.
The Owls do return some experience particularly in the back-seven. Safeties Zyon Gilbert and Da’Von Brown are back, as well as cornerback James Pierre. That, along with linebacker Rashad Smith (who led the team in tackles a season ago) gives Spencer a solid foundation to work with.
But there's a lot to correct. Last year, FAU made gradual improvement from the season before, but not much. The Owls surrendered 427.4 yards per game, which ranked 88th nationally, and 5.9 yards per play. They weren't any good at keeping teams out of the end zone, either. Opponents piled up an average of 31.8 points against FAU last year, good for 93rd nationally.
The secondary was picked on, as well. The Owls allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete over 63 percent of their passes for an average of nearly 240 yards per game.
That's what Fields will be going against when he makes the first collegiate start of his career. It'll be an easy transition to make before Ohio State's new quarterback goes up against Luke Fickell's Cincinnati Bearcats.