Fresh off a blowout victory over in-state rivals, FAU, the FIU Panthers have their sights set on their next conference opponent. The Panthers travel to UTSA to face off against Larry Coker and the Roadrunners in what will be the first meeting between the two programs. While UTSA is slowly watching their season unravel before them, FIU is finally stringing together a few wins to begin their quest for bowl eligibility. A third conference victory would give the Panthers an easier path towards this goal, but first, we take a look at what FIU will need to accomplish for their first winning record since 2011.
Run The Ball
FIU has only leaned on the running game twice this season to pull off big victories. Besides the Wagner and FAU games, the Panthers tend to emphasize more on moving through the air than by ground. While Alex McGough may be proving to be much better than advertised, he is still a true freshman going up against a veteran defense in San Antonio. FAU had success against the Roadrunners with 140 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns and the Panthers should attempt to do the same thing. Hand-offs to Alex Gardner and Anthon Samuel on first and second downs should set up the FIU offense for a nice day at the Alamodome.
Get To The QB
Whether UTSA rolls out Tucker Carter or Blake Bogenschutz on Saturday, FIU should plan to make it a tough homestand for the Roadrunner quarterback. Denzell Perine leads the Panthers in sacks (7) and tackles for loss (9) and should have another big performance this weekend. The UTSA offensive line enters the matchup fresh off letting up 5 sacks to a weak New Mexico defensive front. The Roadrunners will have to regroup and rediscover their abilities that garnered so much hype in the preseason if they want to protect their quarterback from FIU's defensive attack.
Red Zone Rollin'
UTSA has been absolutely abysmal when trying to stop opponents in the red zone. Since the Houston game, the Roadrunners have been scored on 15 out of 15 times in the red zone, including 10 touchdowns. The Panthers experienced similar success last week against FAU, going 4 for 4 in the red zone, with three touchdowns. We know FIU can score the 100-yard turnover return for a TD, but if the Panthers want a real chance to knock off UTSA, they will need to capitalize on their opportunities close to the goal line.
Find The 4th
FIU never took their foot off the gas against FAU in the Shula Bowl. Typically, you never should against a rival, but, with how that series has gone, you can't really blame the Panthers. One point of note here is how FIU continued to score points well into the 4th quarter. UTSA, on the other hand, has allowed 44 points combined to opponents this season. Alex McGough has proven that he can manage a game well enough to put the Panthers in prime position for a victory. If he can limit the turnovers and keep FIU in the game late, expect the Panthers to leave San Antonio with a win.