BOCA RATON (CBSMiami) – Two Florida football teams going in the opposite directions will meet Friday afternoon, but it’s not Florida and Florida State. Instead it’s an upstart Florida Atlantic University Owls team battling a moribund Florida International University Panthers team.
Both programs are dealing with head coaching changes this year, though neither was expected. FIU unexpectedly fired Mario Cristobal one year removed from back-to-back bowl seasons. FIU’s athletic director Pete Garcia then stunned everyone when he hired Ron Turner to lead the Panthers.
The results in Miami have been far short of spectacular. Turner’s Panthers have been awful in 2013 including a 38-0 loss to the UCF Golden Knights; a 72-0 loss to the Louisville Cardinals; and a 48-0 loss to the Middle Tennessee State Raiders.
FIU’s scoring offense is ranked 124th out of 125 teams, averaging just 10.1 points per game this season. Overall, FIU has scored just 13 touchdowns this season. For a comparison, Florida State scored 11 touchdowns in their last game against Idaho.
Overall, FIU’s offense averages 227.1 yards per game, or 3.7 yards per play, according to CFBStats.com. Both numbers rank FIU 124th out of 125 Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
On the other side of the field Friday afternoon in Boca Raton will be the Florida Atlantic Owls. FAU also dealt with an abrupt coaching change, though the Owls’ change happened in the middle of the season.
FAU fired head coach Carl Pelini and the team’s defensive coordinator under circumstances that are still not completely clear. Since then, the Owls have righted the ship and are 3-0 heading into the annual game against the Panthers.
While not a juggernaut by any stretch of the imagination, FAU’s scoring defense has been solid this season allowing just 23.7 points per game, good for 39th in the nation. FAU’s rushing defense struggles allowing 175.6 yards per game and has allowed 18 touchdowns on the ground.
Where FAU excels though is in pass defense. The Owls have allowed opponents to complete just 47.8 percent of their passes this season along with allowing just 11 touchdowns while intercepting 13 passes. FAU’s passing defense ranks sixth in the entire nation allowing 167.6 yards per game.
Overall, FAU’s defense ranks 18th in the country allowing 344.4 yards per game, roughly 5.2 yards per play, according to CFBStats.com.
FAU’s offense, by Conference USA standards, is decent. The Owls average 26.9 points per game and 375.8 yards of total offense per game.
FIU is going into the Shula Bowl with a 1-10 record with the lone victory being over Southern Mississippi University, which hasn’t won a game in two years. Even then, FIU had to hold on to a 24-23 second victory at the end of the game.
The Panthers have been regressing in recent weeks though. FIU was blanked by Middle Tennessee State earlier this month and have since lost 33-10 to UTEP and were blasted last weekend by the Marshall Thundering Herd, 48-10.
FIU’s lack of respect on the national scene is reflected in the point spread Las Vegas has given the Shula Bowl this year. As of Wednesday, FAU is a 28 point favorite over the Panthers on Friday. The four-touchdown spread is one of the largest of the weekend, but still less than Boise State’s 36 points over New Mexico.
FAU and FIU will kick off the annual Shula Bowl on Friday at 3:30 p.m.