Butch Davis is a head coach again after great success in Miami in the late 90s and mostly disappointment at North Carolina that ended in 2010. Florida International is a bit of a step down, but reaching a bowl Game isn’t out of reach in his first season. The Golden Panthers haven’t made a bowl since 2011, yet have the tools to do so with Davis this year.
Quarterback Alex McGough will look to end his career on a high note after a rocky 2016 that saw him miss the final three Games with injury. His completion rate dropped six points to 58.4% last year to go with just 13 TDs and 11 INTs. If he can’t improve on that, it’d be a surprise. McGough has his top receivers to work with in Thomas Owens (652 yards, 7 TDs) and Stantley Thomas (485 yards), although new tight ends are in the fold. Alex Gardner (930 yards, 6 TDs) is another senior in the backfield that would like to end his FIU career with a bowl Game. After averaging just 24 points per Game last year, the Panthers have the skill players, but lack an offensive line to improve on that number. Three new starters are expected to come in on the line, all of them on the interior.
It’s mostly better news on the defensive side with nine starters returning. Then again, that group allowed 34.8 points per Game and gave up 40-plus in three of their final Four contests. There’s some talent on this side of the ball, but that doesn’t mean this defense is good. Senior linebackers Treyvon Williams and Anthony Wint run the show and are the main players to watch out for. Fermin Silva and Newton Salisbury provide experience at end, while corner Isaiah Brown and safety Niko Gonzalez lead the back end. If this unit doesn’t improve on 2016’s numbers, it’d be a disappointment.
The Panthers will get out to a rough start due to a tough non-Conference slate, but stealing a win at Rice isn’t beyond reason. The main problem in their C-USA Schedule is that none of their home Games will come easy with UTSA, ODU and WKU all coming to town. Throw in a trip to MTSU and that’s Four Conference losses at a minimum if this team doesn’t figure things out.
Florida International has +3000 odds (at 5Dimes Sportsbook) to win C-USA, which places them in sixth place in the East division, two spots below last year. With so many returning starters, that number is a bit strange and their over/under could be something to take a look at (4.5 wins at 5Dimes). The Golden Panthers should see Four wins at a minimum with five or six more than possible with experience on both sides of the ball.
2017 Florida International Golden Panthers Football Schedule
Aug. 31 at UCF
Sept. 9 vs. Alcorn State
Sept. 16 at Indiana
Sept. 23 at Rice
Sept. 30 vs. Charlotte
Oct. 7 at Middle Tennessee
Oct. 14 vs. Tulane
Oct. 28 at Marshall
Nov. 4 vs. UTSA
Nov. 11 vs. Old Dominion
Nov. 18 vs. Florida Atlantic
Nov. 24 vs. Western Kentucky