MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A few years ago, a game between Florida International and Duke would have been a battle of teams most major schools schedule for an easy victory. But thanks to head coach Mario Cristobal’s influence, FIU is on the rise and David Cutcliffe’s Blue Devils aren’t exactly pushovers.
FIU is looking to build on two straight winning seasons and two straight bowl appearances. Duke wants to finally shed the reputation of being a basketball only school. FIU is also preparing to join Conference USA next season and could use another victory over a BCS school after beating Louisville last year.
FIU will have to win this year based on getting a good pass rush against the Blue Devils. While Duke struggled to run the football, the Blue Devils threw for more than 270 yards a game last season and had 15 touchdown passes on the season.
Duke is led by quarterback Sean Renfree, a senior, who completed 65 percent of his passes last year for 2,882 yards while throwing 36 passes per game.
FIU will counter with what was the nation’s 64th ranked pass defense last season. FIU gave up 226 yards per game and surrendered 11 touchdowns while intercepting 14 passes. But, Duke accounted for 335 yards passing and three touchdowns last season in a 31-27 victory over FIU.
FIU did rank 18th in the country in sacks last season with 34, but against Duke the Panthers couldn’t get hardly any pressure on the quarterback, which made his job of picking apart the secondary that much easier.
FIU and Duke will square off on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Wallace Wade Stadium in North Carolina. The game can be seen on ESPN3 starting at 7.