North Carolina Central-Florida International
Start Time: 6:00 P.M. ET, Saturday, Sept. 19
Location: FIU Stadium, Miami, Florida
Records: Florida International 1-1, North Carolina Central 1-1. First meeting between the two programs.
Live Stats: here.
Betting Line: No line.
Florida International Outlook: The FIU Panthers are coming off of a loss to Indiana that saw them give up 17 points in the fourth quarter.
FIU has been adequate running the football with a 4.0 yards per carry average after two games. With only 64 total carries, it is clear that rushing the football is the secondary offensive philosophy this season. Alex Gardner (33/136/1TD) is the team's leading rusher and the only player to break the 50 yard mark so far this season. Only Gardner, quarterback Alex McGough (11/42/0TD), and Anthony Samuel (10/23/0TD) have carried the ball 10 or more times on the year. The Panthers pass game is better this season with McGough (49-74/509/4TD) averaging 254.5 yards per game in the air. The FIU quarterback has found a rhythm with wide receiver Thomas Owens (19/244/2TD) and tight end Jonnu Smith (8/43/0TD). The two have combined for 27 of the team's 52 overall receptions and 287 of the team's 543 receiving yards.
Despite giving up 36 points to Indiana, the FIU defense had the team within seven points at the four minute mark of the fourth quarter, before a 96-yard pick six ended any hopes of a win. The FIU rush offense has been stout in giving up only 3.1 yards per carry and 125.5 yards per game. Opponents have been more successful in the air with 241.5 yards per game and a 7.2 yards per pass attempt average. Overall, the FIU defense is giving up 4.9 yards per play to opposing offenses. Anthony Wint (23 tkl, 1 tfl), Treyvon Williams (19 tkl, 1.5 tfl), and Richard Leonard (19 tkl, 1.5 tfl) have been standout defenders for the Panthers in the opening two weeks of the season.
North Carolina Central Outlook: The Eagles have seen the top and the bottom of offensive efficiency in the first two weeks of the season in winning week one 72-0 and losing week two 55-0. The Eagles are balanced with 61 rushes for 268 yards and 58 passes for 391 yards on the season. Running back Dorrel McClain (13/82/1TD) is the leading rusher for an offense that has seen carries from eight players with none having more than 15. Quarterback Malcolm Bell (25-44/290/1TD) has been a bit erratic with only a 56.8% completion rate for 145 yards per game. His top targets so far this season are Khalil Stinson (9/95/1TD) and Jalen Wilkes (8/61/1TD). The duo account for half of the 34 receptions on the season.
As good as the Eagles defense was in the opener, it was equally that bad in week two game versus Duke with the defense averaging 410.5 yards per game allowed. North Carolina Central gave up 4.9 yards per carry and 288 overall rushing yards to the Blue Devils in week two. In addition, Duke was able to gash the Eagles for 367 yards in the air with a 14.1 yards per pass attempt average. Jordan Miles (17 tkl, 1 tfl, 1 sack) leads the way for a defense that has 22 tackles for loss and five sacks on the season.
Prediction: The Panthers still have a bad taste in their mouths after having Big 10 program Indiana in sight for the upset before giving up a 96-yard pick-six. Expect FIU to come out angry versus an over-matched Eagles squad and jump to a big lead in the first half. FIU should be able to get lots of playing time for the bottom of the depth chart in blowing out North Carolina Central.