8-5 in year one, 9-4 in year two, and a boatload of nice recruits developing under Butch Davis, FIU’s prospects are looking up with the former Miami HC at the helm at the other FBS team located in the city of Miami.
It should be mentioned that the Panthers statistically weren’t quite as good as those records indicated the past two years, but for a school that went 17-43 in the five years before Davis, I think they were due for a little bit of luck.
While back-to-back years of over achievement is largely a big warning sign telling you regression to the mean is incoming, it is really, really hard not to be excited about this team when you look at the roster.
Bowling Green transfer James Morgan was the definition of a solid as hell G5 quarterback that any coach would be happy with in year one, completing 65% of his passes, throwing at a near 4-1 TD to interception ratio and doing a great job avoiding sacks.
Morgan benefited from a strong receiving corps last year with eight guys getting over 100 yards. Seven of the eight are back this year including one of the most enticing guys at the G5 level in senior Austin Moloney (610 yards, 20.3 YPC, six touchdowns last year).
All four running backs that saw significant playing time are back for 2019, including D’Vonte Price (560 yards, five touchdowns, 6.2 YPA). The ability to have a four-headed monster in the backfield to turn to when Morgan struggles is incredibly valuable. The offense is so experienced that the least experienced unit is probably the line where they still get back three starters and add a JUCO.
The line is a bit of a question mark, but this looks like it will be one of the best offenses in the conference with the amount of talent and experience that it returns.
The FIU defense was awesome last year, at least in coverage. Pass rush struggled though, and the run defense was inconsistent at best.
Three of the four are back in the secondary, and safeties Richard Dames and Dorian Hall are one of the best duos in the G5 (combined six TFL, six PBUs, six interceptions). All-conference level CB Stantley Thomas-Oliver had 10 PBUs last year and backups like Isaiah Brown and Olin Cushion III return as well.
MLB Sage Lewis was one of the best in the G5 last year, racking up over 100 tackles and nine PBUs, but the OLB spots are a bit of a question mark. The line looks great with star JUCO Teair Tart back after four sacks and 3.5 TFL last year. Georgia Tech transfer Jordan Woods will fill in the other DT spot. Both ends are back after largely uninspiring years as underclassmen, but will hopefully improve with their experience.
There is a lot to be excited about in the secondary, which could be one of the best in the country, but they do lose their coordinator, and outside of Tart and Lewis the front seven could struggle a bit.
This team is projected 83rd in my CSD Prime computer rankings due to a combination of a huge question mark of a front seven and some regression to the mean expected after a couple of years where they over delivered on where they should’ve been, but as long as the luck gods don’t strike back too fervently, there is a lot to sink your teeth into on this team isn’t there?
Butch Davis has been a perfect fit for the Panthers, and I want nothing more than to see him win a C-USA title before he retires. This may be the year for that from a talent perspective, but the schedule frankly sucks, their four toughest opponents in conference play are their four road games, so this team will probably end up being better than their record indicates. That karma always comes back in college football.
|Date||Opponent||OPP. RANK||Proj. Margin|
|12-Sep||at Louisiana Tech||87||-2.6|
|26-Oct||at Middle Tennessee||94||-1.8|
|9-Nov||at Florida Atlantic||79||-4.1|
|23-Nov||vs. Miami (Miami, FL)||18||-10.7|
Average Projected Record: 7.2 wins, 4.8 losses (4.7 wins, 3.3 losses)