MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – When the Florida International Golden Panthers hit the field this weekend to play the University of Central Florida, FIU has the chance to start on a path that no South Florida team has done in years.
FIU is 2-0 coming off a victory over the Louisville Cardinals in primetime on national television. The Golden Panthers now must try to tame the University of Central Florida Golden Knights.
But, if the Panthers can make it past UCF with a 3-0 record, there’s no reason the team shouldn’t be favored to win every game through the rest of the season. It’s a long way from the horrible team current Golden Panthers coach Mario Cristobal took over a few years ago.
But before FIU can start looking at an undefeated season, the team has to deal with a very tough UCF team that has allowed a grand total of three points in its first two games in 2011.
UCF’s first victory over Charleston Southern wasn’t anything to get worried about. But, when the Golden Knights thumped Boston College 30-3, college football experts began looking at UCF’s offense and scoring defense.
Inside the numbers, the Golden Knights’ defense is allowing less than two yards per carry, while averaging six yards per rush on offense. The Golden Knights have been playing takeaway with three interceptions on the young season.
Plus, UCF is allowing opponents to convert on third down just 19 percent of the time. The Golden Knights offense is also clicking when it counts the most, converting 100 percent of their red zone opportunities.
Leading the Golden Knights offensive attack will be quarterback Jeffrey Godfrey. He holds the Miami-Dade County high school record for passing yards, but is just as deadly with his feet.
Godfrey is completing just fewer than 75 percent of his passes this season and has 287 yards passing in two games. Godfrey also contributes in the running game, averaging more than five yards per carry and rushing for five touchdowns on the season.
FIU’s job will be to shut down the UCF running game and make Godfrey beat them with his arm. The Golden Knights average 276 rushing yards per game, so stopping the attack may be easier said than done.
Nevertheless, FIU’s defense has been stout this season. The Golden Panthers defense is allowing just 16.5 points per game, which is good for 33rd in the nation. FIU’s offense is roughly double that amount at 32.5 points per game.
FIU’s defense has allowed just 2.2 yards per carry, but the pass defense has given up 567 yards in two games. Part of the pass defense’s statistical problems comes from Louisville throwing the ball trying to catch-up to FIU in the previous game.
FIU’s success will be predicated on getting the ball to T.Y. Hilton in a variety of ways. Hilton will have to break some big runs, runs after catches, or punt/kick returns if FIU wants to stay on the field with UCF.
If FIU can force UCF to get into a passing game because they’re behind, then FIU has a great chance of knocking off UCF.
After the Golden Knights, FIU’s toughest game will likely be against Duke, Akron, and Troy. But, only the Akron game will be played on the road, which will finally give FIU a true home field advantage.
It may not be the marquee matchup this weekend, but the FIU vs. UCF game could go a long way in determining if both schools can play the role of BCS buster this year.