Old Dominion Monarchs (2-6, 1-3 Conference USA) vs FIU Panthers (1-7, 0-4 Conference USA)
Date/Time: Saturday, November 6th, 7:00 PM
TV: ESPN 3 (Play-By-Play: A.J. Ricketts/Analyst: Patrick Murray)
ESPN 3 can be found here — https://go.web.plus.espn.com/oey0yn
Radio: 105.5 FM WMIB Miami-Fort Lauderdale (Play-By-Play: Corey Brooks)/ESPN Radio 94.1 FM Norfolk (Play-By-Play: Ted Alexander/Analyst: Andy Mashaw/Sideline: James Witham)
Location: FIU Stadium, Miami, FL
Betting Line: O/U 51 ODU -2
All-Time Series Record: Series tied at 3 (FIU won last meeting 24-17 in 2019)
In what’s been a forgettable season for the Panthers, Saturday’s 38-0 loss at Marshall may have been the lowest point of the season — and Butch Davis’ 52-game tenure at the helm at FIU. Marshall jumped out to a 24-point first-half lead, the largest halftime deficit for FIU this season and down seven scores, had to endure the embarrassment of Marshall choosing to throw three straight passes instead of taking a knee to end the game. The shutout was the first since the team was blanked 52-0, which was coincidentally also at Marshall in November of 2015.
Thundering Herd running back Rasheen Ali rushed for 133 yards, paving the way for 246 yards on the ground as a team for Marshall — the 16th time a team has rushed for over 200 yards against FIU in the team’s last 39 games. Offensively, struggles to stay out of third-and-long situations contributed to quarterback Max Bortenschlager’s 14-of-28 passing for 128 yards and FIU passers being pressured heavily throughout the contest. On the season, FIU has allowed 24 sacks, tying them for 13th in Conference USA.
True freshman Grayson James had seen mop-up duty in four games this season, but Kaylan Wiggins came on to finish the Marshall contest. The move may have been made, in part, due to the four-game redshirt rule.
Everett Withers’ defense enters the Old Dominion game looking to stop the bleeding in yards allowed. The Panthers' defense is allowing 484.6 yards per game, ranking them 128th out of 130 FBS teams. It will be a tough task for a unit that’s already missing defensive end Tevin Jones and defensive backs Dorian Hall and Josh Valentine-Turner from the lineup. Former four-star prospect Henry Gray is slated to make his first career start in place of Valentine-Turner, while redshirt junior Benny McCray earns the start at safety for Hall.
Keep an eye on the kicking game in a contest that should be tightly contested. Punter Tommy Heatherly had another excellent outing in a season that should garner him serious C-USA Special Teams Player of the Year consideration. The senior hit six punts for 308 yards and had three punts of over 50 yards in the loss to Marshall. The other half of FIU’s kicking duo had a rough outing. Kicker Chase Gabriel had his 44-yard attempt blocked twice and missed from 34 yards out in Huntington.
Old Dominion Preview
Ricky Rahne’s ODU club arrives at 2-6 entering week 10 in a much different fashion than FIU’s 1-7 mark. Three of the Monarchs’ seven losses have come by seven points or less, including narrow losses division heavyweights UTEP and Marshall. Last week’s 23-20 triumph over Lousiana Tech is the team’s first conference victory since the 2018 season and the team still has an outside chance of having their most wins in a season since ‘18 (4) with four remaining contests.
Rahne made the move to start Hayden Wolff at quarterback two weeks ago against Western Kentucky and the Monarchs’ passing output has increased exponentially in the pair of games that he’s been under center. Wolff, a former three-star recruit out of Venice, Florida started three games down the stretch of 2019 as a true freshman and was in contention for the role this year, before losing out to UCF transfer D.J. Mack. Wolff is 65-of-100 passing with 616 yards on the year. Ironically, he made his first career start against FIU in 2019’s 24-17 loss to the Panthers.
On the ground, redshirt sophomore Blake Watson has been somewhat of a surprise at running back. Used almost exclusively as a returner in 2019, the former wide receiver leads the team with 551 yards rushing. He, along with Elijah “LaLa” Davis will form a one-two punch that will look to expose the FIU run defense’s deficiencies.
Defensively, ODU are led by four-year starter Jordan Young, who’s been the lineup since earning All-Conference Freshman honors as a redshirt freshman in 2017.
The 6-3, 230-pound linebacker has 53 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss. In the secondary, veteran Harrell Blackmon and transfers Tre Hawkins and Roger Cray lead the way. Hawkins and Cray make up an extremely formidable cornerback tandem, while Blackmon has been excellent from the safety position. Last season, Cray had an excellent outing against the Panthers as a member of Western Kentucky, breaking up three passes and scoring on a fumble recovery that helped put the game out of reach.
This is truly a pick-em game. The loss to Marshall may have been the low point for the Panthers, who are almost certainly facing an offseason filled with change. Meanwhile, ODU’s 2-6 record doesn’t exemplify how well they’ve played this year. The insertion of Wolff at quarterback gives the Monarchs a legit passing threat, something they lacked with the more dual-threat abilities of Mack. With that said, if the Panthers are going to win again this season, it would need to start against ODU. If FIU can get D’Vonte Price established — and keep with the run into the second half, while finding big plays to receivers Tyrese Chambers and Bryce Singleton, they’ll have an opportunity to get their first FBS win since November of 2019.
Final Score FIU 24, Old Dominion 21