Owls enter Big Ten portion of their schedule

Florida Atlantic will be getting its fill of the Big Ten in its next two games, as the Owls visit Michigan State this Saturday, then head back north to play at Minnesota Sept. 20.

FAU is 1-1 against the Big Ten all-time, losing to Minnesota 46-7 in 2005 in Minneapolis, and then beating the Golden Gophers last season 42-39 at Dolphin Stadium for FAU's first win over a team from a BCS conference.

This year's game against Minnesota is the final of a three-game deal, and the one with Michigan State is the first of a similar contract, with Michigan playing at FAU in 2010 and the Owls returning to East Lansing in 2011.

The Spartans could be the opponent when FAU christens its new on-campus stadium, which is scheduled to open in 2010 if a financing plan is finalized over the next couple months.

"They are typical Big Ten. Very big up front, and their linebackers are stout. I feel it will be difficult to run the football against them," FAU quarterback Rusty Smith said about the Spartans. "We are going to try to run, but it is going to be difficult."

Lowly defense: The statistics show what Florida Atlantic fans already know � the defense has been AWOL to start the season.

FAU ranks 113th of the 119 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision in total defense, giving up an average of 492.5 yards per game.

The Owls are 107th in pass defense, with opponents averaging 298.5 yards, and 97th in rush defense, giving up 194 yards per game.

The offense has picked up where it was last year, as the Owls are 37th in total offense, averaging 423 yards a game, with 306.5 passing and 116.5 rushing.

Sun Belt notes: Middle Tennessee had the win of the week for the Sun Belt, beating Maryland 24-14. It was the first home win against a BCS team for Middle, and the fourth time in 30 games they have beaten a BCS opponent.

It was the Blue Raiders first win over an ACC team, and the first time a Sun Belt team has beaten an ACC team.

Like FAU, many Sun Belt teams face tough road games this week, with MTSU at Kentucky, North Texas at LSU, Western Kentucky at Alabama and Louisiana-Lafayette and Illinois.

FAU wide receiver Cortez Gent, who had eight catches for 146 yards and one touchdown and threw for another touchdown, was nominated for the conference Offensive Player of the Week, but was beaten out by MTSU quarterback Joe Craddock, who passed for 256 yards and two touchdowns in the Blue Raiders win over Maryland.

MTSU swept the weekly awards, with defensive back Alex Suber getting the defensive award, and punter David DeFatta took the special teams award.