FIU (5-2, 3-0 C-USA) vs Western Kentucky (1-6, 0-3 C-USA)
Date/Time: Saturday, October 27, 7:30 PM
TV: beIN Sports (Mike Gleason & Brett Romberg)
Radio: 610 WIOD (A.J. Ricketts & Kenny Kelly)/100.7 WKLX-FM/Hilltopper IMG Radio Network (Randy Lee, Leo Peckenpaugh & Terry Obee)
Location: Houchens Industries–L. T. Smith Stadium at Jimmy Feix Field, Bowling Green, KY
Betting Line: FIU -3.5 O/U 54
All-Time Series Record: Western Kentucky leads 6-5 (FIU won last matchup 41-17 in 2017)
Florida International head coach Butch Davis preaches about wanting his team to play their best football heading into the middle and late parts of the season.
The young Panthers are heeding the message.
FIU has won three straight heading into their Conference USA match-up with Western Kentucky.
“I’ve always liked to see teams that I coach play their best ball heading into conference play. Especially with a young team, I’m pleased that the kids are learning they can’t wait till next game to make adjustments, they’re making adjustments in-game and it’s showing on the field,” said Davis.
Since their loss to crosstown rival Miami, FIU quarterback James Morgan has looked like one of the best signal-callers in the nation.
The Bowling Green transfer ranks seventh among FBS quarterbacks with a passer rating of 168.2.
His play has been especially timely with running backs Shawndarrius Phillips battling an ankle injury and Anthony Jones still recovering from being shot in a drive-by shooting September 6th.
Defensively, the Panthers aren’t quite where Davis would like them. But they’re trending upward. They’ll be tasked with stopping two of the best tight ends in the conference in Mik’Quan Deane and Kyle Fourtenbary.
In a season that has had its fair share of disappointment, last week’s bizarre loss to Old Dominion may have been the lowest point for Mike Sanford’s team.
Western Kentucky attempted a game-winning field goal, only to have the kick fall short.
The next problem was that it was caught by ODU’s dangerous returner Isaiah Harper who returned the kick 91 yards.
The Hilltoppers were called for a facemask penalty when tackling Harper which gave ODU an untimed down and they hit a game-winning field goal of their own.
If Western is going to have any shot against FIU, they have to make sure that the sting of that loss doesn’t carry over into Saturday’s contest.
Multiple quarterbacks have played for WKU but their best success has come at the hands of freshman Davis Shanley.
He presents a threat to an FIU defense that has had its struggles with quarterbacks who can move the pocket. If they can get Joshua Samuel going on the ground, that should open up chances for the young signal-caller.
He has talented threats in the receiving game with Deane and Fourtenbary. On the outside, wide receivers Jacquez Sloan and Quin Jernighan provide both a speed threat and a sizeable target that the FIU pass defense will have to contend with.
Despite the 1-6 record, Western Kentucky has had a lead in its last six games and is very capable of pulling off the upset against the division leading Panthers.
The story of this game will be told by WKU’s ability to respond after their loss last week.
If they’re still stuck in the final sequence of plays from the Old Dominion game, expect the hungry Panthers to roll.
Now if the Hilltoppers can turn the page, there’s a good chance that this one could be a tight contest. I expect the latter.
Western Kentucky is a more talented team than their 1-6 record would suggest.
Florida International has been a notoriously slow starting team this season. Mike Sanford’s team will put up a solid fight for a half.
However, James Morgan is looking like he may be in the conversation for Conference USA’s best quarterback. With a healthy Phillips and Maxwell to compliment, FIU will pull away late.
Final Score: FIU 32 WKU 21