Florida International Preview
After taking FIU to three straight bowl games, it’s been a frustrating start to the season for Butch Davis and the Panthers. After having two games postponed early in the season, the Panthers have finally gotten on the field, only to lose both of their games by a combined five points. If it matters, FIU was out-played against Liberty and fortunate to only lose 36-34. But losing as 6.5-point home favorites to Middle Tennessee last week was a sucker punch to the gut for FIU. With a critical game against Marshall looming at the end of the month, the Panthers need to get on track right away or they could see their season spiral out of control quickly.
FIU’s biggest problem is that Davis still hasn’t found his starting quarterback. The Panthers have played three different quarterbacks in their first two games and none have stood out. Florida International’s saving grace has been a productive rushing attack that saw both Shaun Peterson and D’vonte Price rush for over 100 yards last week against Middle Tennessee. However, when three quarterbacks combine for 58 passing yards on 21 throws, a dynamic duo in the backfield doesn’t appear quite as intimidating. Until the Panthers find a quarterback who can complete passes down the field, they can expect to see teams stacking the box against them.
At the same time, the FIU defense hasn’t been up to par. The Panthers were dominated by Liberty, giving up over 500 yards of offense and 36 points. They allowed over 300 passing yards and a 100-yard rusher in that game. Things didn’t get much better last week when they gave up over 400 yards of offense and 31 points to a Middle Tennessee offense that had looked atrocious early in the season. Clearly, Davis has some issues to solve on that side of the ball as well.
As one of the newest football programs to the FBS level, the Charlotte 49ers might finally be hitting their stride. Charlotte earned a huge win last week, knocking off North Texas 49-21. Previously, the 49ers had suffered a pair of competitive losses to Appalachian State and Florida Atlantic while having two other games canceled or postponed. Charlotte also has several winnable games on the horizon if the 49ers can build off the momentum of last week’s win.
Quarterback Chris Reynolds stole the show in the win over North Texas, throwing for 290 yards and two touchdowns. Reynolds put together a solid showing the previous week against Florida Atlantic, throwing for 314 yards. However, he was held back by an offensive line that conceded six sacks, putting a stop to otherwise promising drives. Not only did the Charlotte offensive line do a better job of protecting Reynolds last week, but they also helped to jumpstart the running game. Three different players scored rushing touchdowns against North Texas, including Aaron McAllister, who had 140 of the team’s 291 rushing yards. If the 49ers can maintain that type of balance, they could be something special on offense.
The 49ers have also been a little underrated defensively this year. Despite the 1-2 record, they’ve allowed just 21 points in back-to-back games, which has given Charlotte a fighting chance to win both games. In fairness, the 49ers struggled to contain a mobile quarterback against FAU and were shredded by the Appalachian State rushing attack in their season opener. But for the most part, the Charlotte defense has done a fine job of bending without breaking and keeping the 49ers competitive.
Full Game Prediction
As mentioned, the result of this game is largely dependent on FIU finding a quarterback. The Panthers can’t rely on their defense to carry them while their rushing attack can only go so far. After scoring 49 points last week, the 49ers will be brimming with confidence, especially after the way the FIU defense has played the last two weeks. In what could become a high-scoring game, the Panther sneed one of their quarterbacks to step up and help them manufacture points.
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