The Shula Bowl will be rekindled on Halloween this year as FIU will make the drive up I-95 to visit Florida Atlantic in a game that's probably a must win for FIU in order to keep aspirations for a bowl bid alive. Last season FIU defeated FAU 38-10.
Start Time: Oct. 31, 3:30 P.M. ET.
Where: FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, Florida.
Radio: FAU Here.
Series: FAU leads 9-4
Live Stats: Here.
Beting Line: FAU +2.5, Over/Under Point Total: 52
THREE FRIGHTENING FIU FACTS
1. The offense is back from the dead
After scoring 14 points in the conference opener against Louisiana Tech, and 17 points the following week against UMASS (both loses), FIU's offense has scored 52, 34, and 41 points, going 2-1 over that span. Last week Alex McGough passed for 390 yards and three touchdown against Old Dominion. Tight end Jonnu Smith was his go-to receiver as Smith caught 10 passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns. McGough has been running Ron Turner's pro-style offense to perfection lately, throwing 17 touchdowns to just three interceptions while also adding two touchdowns on the ground for the year.
2. A Possessed Defense
Last year FIU was led by their defense and this year its been much of the same. After losing last year's defensive coordinator Josh Conklin to Pittsburgh, Ron Turner hired former Pitt defensive coordinator Matt House to run the defense and the unit hasn't missed a beat as they boast the second best scoring defense in Conference USA allowing 22 points per game. If you're able to get into the red zone, that's when FIU is at their best as they lead the conference in red zone defense as opponents have score 13 touchdowns out of 27 opportunities. Linebacker Anthony Wint leads the team with 58 tackles and defensive end Mike Wakefield leads the conference in forced fumbles with four.
3. Punchless On The Road
After beating UCF on the road to open the season FIU has not won another road game since, as they have lost four straight games away from Miami this season. They have averaged 20 points per game on the road this season and with this game being played at FAU Stadium, its a good thing their defense is pretty good. Last time here the Panthers gained 132 yards on offense.
Three Frightening Facts FAU Facts
1. Playing In A Haunted House
Playing at home is supposed to be a safe haven but not for FAU. The Owls have lost every single home game this season. The last time they won a game at FAU Stadium was October 18 of last year against Western Kentucky. The team has suffered close defeats and blowout loses since the win over WKU and one has to wonder whether the team is a little bit in their own head when playing at home. Performing in front of an empty stadium doesn't exactly help either.
2. A Headless Offense
FAU is averaging 22.3 points per game. They have committed 20 turnovers this season with 13 lost fumbles (19 fumbles this season) and eight interceptions. Despite the offense being led by the duo of Greg Howell and Trey Rodriguez from the backfield (653 combined rushing yards for six touchdowns) the offense reluctantly runs the ball. Last week Rodriguez rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown on seven carries. Howell had four carries for eight yards with one touchdown. The team has lacked an identity on offense ever since Jaquez Johnson suffered an ankle injury against Miami (FL.) and due to the wide receiver core disappointing a bit this season the team has lacked for explosive plays through the air.
3. Hooting Freshmen
FAU has had a ton of freshmen see the playing field this season but no one has made a bigger impact than freshman defensive back Ocie Ross. Ross was named C-USA defensive player of the week for week four after recording five tackles and two interceptions, one of which he returned for a 60-yard touchdown which sealed FAU's 17-7 victory over Charlotte. Against Marshall he returned an interception 95-yards for a touchdown. On the offensive side of the ball Trey Rodriguez has also been great. After being in the doghouse for the first few games of the season, Rodriguez has scored a touchdown in each of his last three games. Hopefully Ross and Rodriguez will torment FIU throughout their time as an Owl.
The average margin of victory in the Shula Bowl the past five years has been 20 points per game. I don't see that trend continuing. FIU has looked great lately but has struggled all season on the road to score points. FAU has struggled to score points in general.
FIU's next four games are FAU, Marshall, Charlotte, and WKU. The Panthers need to win this weekend or risks needing a win against the two best team in C-USA in order to become bowl eligible.
The Panthers have looked like the better team all season, have played with more unity, and have a lot more to play for so I like FIU to win this week.
After becoming the first FAU head coach to lose his first game against FIU last season, Charlie Partridge's seat will continue to get warmer after the Don Shula Award is once again hoisted by the FIU Panthers for the second straight year.
FAU 24 FIU 28