Florida Atlantic's Howard Schnellenberger glad to begin Sun Belt games

BOCA RATON - When asked how he felt about Florida Atlantic starting its Sun Belt Conference schedule, Owls coach Howard Schnellenberger responded, "hallelujah."

FAU is 1-3, and the three losses were to Texas, Michigan State and Minnesota by a combined score of 106-13, so it is not surprising Schnellenberger is glad to be heading into games against teams of equal stature.

The Owls are the defending Sun Belt champions. Despite the rocky start, they should contend for the title, though the coach and players know there are no walkovers.

"As I reminded our team, we have never blown anybody in the conference out besides FIU on rare occasion," Schnellenberger said. "We have been able to will our ways to victories."
Last season the Owls went 6-1 in the Sun Belt, with the only comfortable win a 55-23 thrashing of FIU and five games decided by 10 or fewer points.

"It wasn't easy last year. The Sun Belt is getting better and better. It's pretty much dead-even talent wise," defensive back Corey Small said.

FAU plays Tuesday at Middle Tennessee (1-3, 0-2) on ESPN2.

The Blue Raiders are already considered out of the running for a title, though coach Rick Stockstill is not ready to concede.

"It's premature to say you are out of it. It will be difficult and we will need some help," Stockstill said. "As far as motivating them, with two losses, that's not a problem whatsoever."

"The Middle Tennessee game will be the deciding factor," Small said.

"They are at a crossroad, too. They lose to us their season is pretty much over."

Arkansas State has been the surprise Sun Belt team so far. The Red Wolves are 3-1 and 1-0 in the conference, and one of their wins was over Texas A&M.

Troy (2-1, 1-0) was expected to finish near the top, and is coming off a respectable showing at Ohio State.

"We know that to win this conference will take a special effort on our part," Schnellenberger said.


Ted Hutton can be reached at