In our quest to
provide cutting edge material unsurpassed by any other blog on the Web prepare you for the upcoming matchups involving the teams we cover, we shift our attention to Norfolk, Virginia, where C-USA and FBS newcomer Old Dominion is currently on a five game-losing streak. Stepping onto Foreman Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium will be Florida International, on a three-game losing streak. (By the way, it's homecoming at Old Dominion this weekend.) Since there are no ties in college football anymore, one team is indeed required to win, so with that in mind our FIU and ODU beat writers will each make the case for their team. Whoever you decide made the better argument gets...absolutely nothing. Let's begin.
Why FIU will win (Steven)
First off, let's get some things out of the way. Old Dominion is really good at scoring points, while FIU brings the noise on defense. The Monarchs have a stuntacious quarterback in Taylor Heinicke, but the Panthers have a special playmaker in cornerback Richard Leonard. Both teams need to win out to achieve bowl eligibility and the first step begins here.
If FIU wants to stop the Monarchs on their first C-USA homecoming, they will need to stick to what they do best and that is causing turnovers. Winning the turnover margin is wonderful - with how much Heinicke likes to put the ball in the air, they are inevitable in this matchup - but it's what happens when FIU has the ball that will truly dictate the outcome of this game. Similar to how Rice capitalized on the Panthers miscues last weekend, FIU and quarterback Alex McGough will need to turn any trips to the red zone into seven points.
Unfortunately, carrying the ball for the boys from Miami won't be starting running back Alex Gardner (due to a nagging injury), but instead another freshman phenom, Napoleon Maxwell. A steady run game, stout defense and one or two game-breaking special teams plays should have the Panthers back on their quest for bowl eligibility.
Why ODU will win (Sydney)
I guess the only noise I hear FIU bringing on defense is the 76 points allowed in their last two games...anyway, I digress (and can't really take given the way ODU has played recently). As mentioned above, it's homecoming for the Monarchs, and it's the first homecoming game for them as an FBS team. So there's one thing that works in their favor.
The other thing that works in their favor is that Taylor Heinicke is a very good quarterback. Sure, he's been left high and dry by his defense several times this year, but for the most part, he's done what he can do to help the Monarchs win. (Problem is, they aren't winning.) But I think that he will be able to make the plays that he needs to make to his receivers to put ODU in a great position.
Something else I'm looking at is the Panthers' quarterback protection. I think that is something that will be exploited by the Monarchs' defense to some extent and bodes pretty well for the team. With that in mind, if I'm the defensive staff, I may want to consider consistently relying on the blitz and putting an emphasis on my guys trying to get to the quarterback and force him to make plays under duress.
Finally, as you mentioned, Steven, this team can put up points. I don't think that this will be a shootout, but at this point, I think that this might be a game that the Monarchs, at least, can really get some points on the scoreboard. FIU hasn't scored gobs of points this year, so I think that's advantage ODU. For that reason, and the reasons listed above, I feel pretty good about them improving to 4-6.