MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – The best football team in South Florida doesn’t play at Sun Life Stadium. Instead, a trip down the Turnpike to FIU Stadium will show you a team on the rise.
After knocking off the University of Central Florida on Saturday, the Golden Panthers football team is set up to possibly run the table and finish undefeated this season.
FIU is 3-0 for the first time in the program’s 10-season history and now its biggest test the rest of the way may be the Duke Blue Devils, which is FIU’s homecoming game this season.
Still, all eyes are on the hamstring of FIU speedster T.Y. Hilton. The Heisman candidate suffered a hamstring injury with five minutes to go in the first half. He was limited in action in the second half, but the Golden Panthers defense rose to the occasion.
The FIU defense stifled the running game of UCF, which had been averaging 275 yards per game. FIU’s run defense has now ascended to rank 34th in the country. Overall, FIU’s defense is ranked 56th in the country in total defense and 21st in scoring defense.
It’s a long way from the wrecked program head coach Mario Cristobal took over just a few years ago. Cristobal has made FIU a respected team that is ascending to the top of the Sun Belt Conference.
Cristobal has established such a program that in the coming weeks, FIU will be on either ESPN2 or ESPNU a total of three times, possibly more.
FIU’s schedule plays out with the Golden Panthers likely favored in almost every game the rest of the season. October 1st’s matchup with the Duke Blue Devils may be the toughest. While Duke is an also-ran in the ACC, the team will be a tough out for FIU.
The Golden Panthers have road games at Akron, Arkansas State, Western Kentucky, Louisiana-Monroe, and Middle Tennessee. Akron is next to last this year in scoring offense, while Western Kentucky and Louisiana-Monroe are ranked 100th or worse.
FIU takes on Louisiana University in a Sun Belt Conference game this weekend at 6:00 p.m. at FIU Stadium.