Start Time: 12:00 P.M. ET, Saturday, Oct. 10
Location: FIU Stadium, Miami, Florida
Records: Florida International 2-3, UTEP 2-3. UTEP leads the overall series 1-0.
Live Stats: here.
Betting Line: Florida International -14.5. Over/Under: 46.5.
Florida International Outlook: The FIU Panthers are a team that should be better than their 2-3 overall record. Offensively, they are no juggernaut with the #105 success rate in the country at 36.7%. Running the football, the Panthers are even worse with the #123 most successful rushing attack at 31.9%. They are stuffed on 22.6% of all carries. That success rate is 10% below the national average. When running the football, Alex Gardner (84/305/3TD) gets the call. The sophomore is averaging only 3.6 yards per carry for a rushing attack that averages 124.0 yards per game.
FIU quarterback Alex McGough (122-189/1,129/10TD) will never be confused for an aggressive, down the field passer. Thomas Owens (29/349/5TD) is his top target with 24.9% of all passes headed his way. The problem with passing to Owens is a 59.2% catch rate, second worst among FIU receivers with 15+ targets. Gardner and tight ends Jonnu Smith (19/129/1TD) and Ya’Keem Griner (18/185/2TD) make up a quartet that is targeted on 70% of all pass attempts. Overall, the Panthers average 232.6 yards per game in the air.
Defense is the reason FIU came close to pulling upsets versus Indiana and Louisiana Tech this fall. The Panthers only give up a stingy 3.71 points per trip inside the 40-yard line. Offenses have a success rate of 43.6% running the ball, but an IsoPPP of only 0.89, good for #18 nationally. The run defense has a stuff rate of 23.2%. Teams have been able to abuse the FIU pass defense at a higher rate, with a success rate of 45.1%. The Panthers are rarely caught giving up explosive passing plays. Overall, the FIU pass defense gives up 248.6 yards per game.
Players to watch on the FIU defense include: Anthony Wint (41 tkl, 3 tfl, 1 int), Treyvon Williams (33 tkl, 1.5 tfl), and Richard Leonard (29 tkl, 1.5 tfl).
UTEP Outlook: It has been a tough season for the Miners in 2015. Offensively, UTEP has been unable to overcome the loss of Aaron Jones (32/209/1TD) in the run game. Even though he was injured in the second game of the season, he is still the team’s leading rusher by 105 yards. The Miners are only successful on 32.1% of all running plays, with a 25.6% stuff rate. The offense is putting up 137.8 yards per game on the ground.
Outside of a two game stretch versus NMSU and Incarnate Word, the Miners have been very poor in the passing game. After starting the season with Mack Leftwich (31-47/336/1TD), the Miners moved to Ryan Metz (64-106/743/6TD) following an injury. Metz has led the way for the Miners with a 60.4% completion rate, focusing on Jaquan White (21/209/2TD), Hayden Plinke (17/231/0TD), and Autrey Golden (15/138/2TD). The trio has accounted for 54.8% of all targets. Overall, the Miners are averaging 220.4 yards per game in the air.
The nicest thing to say about UTEP’s defense is that it has improved in recent weeks. The Miners are still #127 in the nation in defensive IsoPPP and #113 in giving up 5.42 points per trip inside the 40. Offenses are finding lots of success versus the Miners defense at a 42.5% success rate, while also wildly explosive with a rushing IsoPPP of 1.26, ranking UTEP at #114 nationally. The pass defense is better at stopping successful plays with a passing success rate allowed of 39.3%, just below the national average. Overall, the Miners are giving up 490.8 yards per game.
Players to watch on the UTEP defense include Alvin Jones (37 tkl, 9 tfl, 5.5 sacks), Jimmy Musgrave (29 tkl, 2 tfl), and Nick Usher (19 tkl, 5 tfl, 2 sacks).
Prediction: Unless the Panthers pull a complete no show, this game should not even be close. Expect FIU to look good on offense and dominate on defense. Florida International 31, UTEP 10.