Florida International surprised almost everyone en route to an 8-5 record in Butch Davis’s first season in charge. Repeating that record is a long task with inexperience on both sides of the ball as only eight starters return in all. Because of that, the Golden Panthers have an over/under of five wins with +10500 odds to win C-USA (at 5Dimes Sportsbook).
The Panthers only return two starters on offense and that’s likely going to lead to some problems. Bowling Green transfer James Morgan is expected to win the quarterback battle, but there is a slew of guys he’s competing with and Morgan was benched at BGSU so there’s reason to doubt him. The line has the most experience with the two returning starters, but the entire left side is new and the projected center is a sophomore. If that group doesn’t fall off, the offense could at least come close to last year’s 25.6 points per Game. Running back should be in good hands with Napoleon Maxwell (477 yards), Shawndarrius Phillips (469 yards) and D’Vonte Price (131 yards) all expected to get carries. It’s a good bet FIU leans on its running Game for the majority of the season. That’s mostly because the passing Game is a toss up from QB to WR with Austin Maloney (304 yards) and Bryce Singleton (228 yards) the top returnees, while Florida transfer C.J. Worton could see the most time.
The defense was far from elite last year, allowing 28.5 points per Game, and with only Four starters back, it’ll likely be below average again. A few of their top returnees are at new positions so that could lead to some early trouble. Fermin Silva moved to linebacker after serving at end for the majority of his career and had seven sacks in 2017. Tackle Anthony Johnson also had seven sacks, while a couple JUCO guys and Georgia Tech transfer Jordan Wood hope to beef up the rest of the line. There’s little known about the secondary except that it’s young after some of the top players dealt with injury last year. But even if healthy, they aren’t expected to improve much from the 243 passing yards allowed.
FIU surpassed expectations last year and that will only lead to a down season in 2018 with so many new starters. Unless the Panthers can pull off a major upset, they’ll likely have two or three non-Conference losses with Games against Indiana and Miami. The Conference Schedule is pretty favorable and is the main reason they have a chance to reach a bowl as they miss all of the top teams out of the West division. Plus, they host the expected top three teams in the East division with the trip to WKU being their toughest and that’s not a guaranteed loss as the Hilltoppers also have a new quarterback. The Schedule is favorable, but that can only go so far. Morgan could be a playmaker at quarterback, but it’s worth nothing he had 25 touchdowns and 23 interceptions in his Bowling Green career. Those interceptions aren’t going to help if he wins the starting job. There’s a chance to reach six wins for FIU, yet with so many new faces, getting there will be difficult.
2018 Florida International Golden Panthers Football Schedule
Sept. 1 vs. Indiana
Sept. 8 at Old Dominion
Sept. 15 vs. Massachusetts
Sept. 22 at Miami
Sept. 29 vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Oct. 13 vs. Middle Tennessee
Oct. 20 vs. Rice
Oct. 27 at Western Kentucky
Nov. 3 vs. Florida Atlantic
Nov. 10 at UTSA
Nov. 17 at Charlotte
Nov. 24 vs. Marshall