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Knowing Your Opponent: Boca Raton Bowl Q&A about Florida Atlantic

Cyrus Smith of SB Nation's Underdog Dynasty talks FAU before the Owls battle Akron.

Conference USA Championship - North Texas v Florida Atlantic Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images

The Florida Atlantic Owls were one of college football's biggest surprises this year. Stuck in the cellar of Conference USA since joining the league in 2013, the Owls rose from the ashes and completed their best season in program history. The 2017 Conference USA champions earned a bid to the Boca Raton Bowl and will face the MAC runner-up Akron Zips.

Cyrus Smith, managing editor and Florida Atlantic contributor for SB Nation's Underdog Dynasty, joined us to preview Akron's noteworthy opponent:

Steve Helwick: What are your opinions of this matchup? Florida Atlantic is 10-3 and has won 9-straight, looking like a fringe top 25 team. But the C-USA champs are rewarded with playing a 7-6 Akron team that's suffered a handful of blowout losses this year. Should FAU have wished for a better draw to garner more respect (Toledo or P5 opponent, perhaps)?

Cyrus Smith: Not a fan of this matchup at all. A 10-win team taking on a seven-win team should be frowned upon during bowl season. FAU deserved better. I was hoping FAU would draw a team from the AAC (Memphis or USF) or maybe a P5 team (Florida State).

SH: This is a de facto home game for Lane Kiffin and the Owls, who finished 6-1 in Boca Raton this year. With the backing of the home fans and facing Akron as 23-point favorites, is there any way you could see FAU losing this one? What would have to go wrong?

CS: If FAU doesn't show up I can definitely see them losing this game. Bowl games are often a test of motivation and will power. This will only be Akron's 2nd bowl game in Terry Bowden's six years as their head coach so I'm sure the players and coaching staffs will be excited for the game. With that said, S&P+ gives FAU a 90 percent chance at winning this game. A lot will have to happen for FAU to lose this game. Poor play from Jason Driskel and a bowl prep full of indulging in rat poison could undo the Owls.

SH: FAU running back Devin Singletary may be the most underrated skill position player in the country this season. Although he didn't finish in the top 10 of Heisman voting, the sophomore dominated the competition by rushing for an FBS-best 29 touchdowns and he's riding an 11-game streak of 100+ rushing yards. What makes Singletary such a dangerous threat as a runner?

CS: What makes Devin Singletary so great is his motor. Motor just so happens to be his nickname too. Rarely do you see him go down with just one defender. He's very slippery to tackle when downfield, and has a breakaway speed when provided a lane. But his best attribute is his vision as a ball carrier. He almost always makes the best read when going through run gaps.

SH: After three-straight 3-9 seasons, Florida Atlantic completely flipped the script and dominated the conference under first-year head coach (and expert Twitter user) Lane Kiffin. How much credit does the 42-year old deserve for the dramatic turnaround?

CS: Lane Kiffin deserves some credit for this season, but he inherited a very talented roster. FAU's biggest problem before Kiffin and co. arrived was coaching. With great football minds running the program FAU is now playing to their potential. Kiffin has been amazing no doubt, but I'd say the players deserve some accolades too for finally shedding their underachiever label.

SH: In the CFP era (2014-present), Conference USA owns the best bowl record at 11-6 (.647). The MAC is the worst at 5-13 (.278). Additionally, the C-USA is 3-1 against the MAC during the time span. What factors contribute to the C-USA's bowl success? Is it a better conference than most perceive it to be?

CS: Conference USA's best teams over the years (WKU, Marshall, Louisiana Tech) have just been really good teams. Take away the conference affiliation and those squads could have more than held their own in the AAC. But I think the biggest factor is that C-USA teams get up for bowl games. Often it's the biggest opportunity of the season to showcase their talent on the big stage and fortunately they have delivered.

Akron and Florida Atlantic will kick off at FAU Stadium on December 19 at 7 pm EST. The game can be captured on ESPN. The Owls will aim for their third bowl victory and first 11-win season in program history, while Akron hopes to claim a second bowl victory after falling to Toledo in the MAC Championship Game.

For more on the Boca Raton Bowl from the Florida Atlantic side and additional Group of Five coverage, check out Cyrus' coverage at Underdog Dynasty or follow him on Twitter @CoolCyWrites.