Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)
This Years Record: 1-0 (0-0 T-1st in C-USA East)
Head Coach: Ron Turner (3rd Year)
Overall: 48-80 (.375) 12th year
At Florida International: 6-19 (4-12)
Bowl Appearances: 0
Last Years Record: 4-8 (3-5 6th in C-USA East)
Bowl Appearances Since 2000: 2 Appearances (1-1 Record)
Mascot: Roary the Panther
Colors: Blue and Gold
National Titles: 0
Conference Titles: 1
FIU has some very notable alumni, including Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton, former Major League Baseball player Mike Lowell, NBA player Raja Bell, and actor Andy Garcia.
1. Turner Making Magic In Year Three? Again
Florida International head coach Ron Turner may spot a .375 career winning percentage, but in his third year at his previous stop at Illinois was when he started having some success. Not including his first year at San Jose State in 1992, Turner has just two winning seasons. The first was in his third year in Champaign when his Illini went 8-4 and won a bowl game. The second one was a magical run that saw him take Illinois to a Big Ten title and an appearance in the Sugar Bowl versus Louisiana State. Year three at FIU for Turner started out well as his squad upset Central Florida, a favorite to compete for the American Athletic Conference title 15-14. FIU was a double-digit underdog entering the game last Thursday.
2. Tight End Jonnu Smith as Good as They Get
The Hoosier defense was torched by SIU’s tight end Adam Fuehne, this week they will be facing one of the best tight ends in the country in Jonnu Smith. Smith, a 6-foot-3 230-pound junior, earned first-team All-Conference USA in 2014 when he lead all tight ends in the nation 61 catches for 710 yards and 8 touchdowns. However, Smith was kept in check by UCF as he had three catches for just 18 yards.
Head coach Ron Turn was asked whether or not Jonnu Smith was their go-to guy he responded, “everyone knows he’s our go-to guy and he’s still producing those numbers. No question about it.”
Smith, according to Turner, can play “a true, in-line tight end. He’s fullback, he’s slot, he’s outside, he’s all over the place.” So look for FIU to move him around to create match-up problems for the IU defense
3. Be Aware of T.O.
No, not THAT T.O, but FIU receiver Thomas Owens. The sophomore receiver from Georgia had a break out game versus UCF catching a staggering 11 balls for 78 yards. At 6-1 198-pounds Owens will be able to be physical against the smaller Indiana corners. He was a possession receiver in week one and looks to be the new favorite target for quarterback Alex McGough.
4. FIU Features Stout, Aggressive Defense
The Golden Panthers’ defense held the Golden Knight offense to just 395 total yards, and an anemic 46 yards on the ground. While the Hoosier running and passing attack are much strong than the one that FIU saw last week, it will still be a challenge. FIU forced three fumbles last week, although they did not recover any, IU running backs will have to protect the ball. Last season this FIU team forced 33 turnovers (14 interceptions and 19 fumbles). Turner says that, “we got to get some turnovers. We didn’t get any defensively. But the biggest thing is take care of our business, takecare of us, execute, focus and be as prepared as we were last week.”
The defense was lead last week by junior linebacker Treyvon Williams who had 11 tackles and 1.5 TFL’s. Two other Golden Panthers reached double digit tackles: defensive back Richard Leonard (10) and linebacker Anthony Wint (10).
5. Quarterback Alex McGough Settling in as a Sophomore
Last season McGough started his assault on the FIU record book as he threw for 1,680 yards (10th highest single-season total) and 14 touchdowns (3rd highest single-season total) to go along completing 50.3 percent of his passes. He earned C-USA All-Freshman honors.
McGough enters his sophomore season with high hopes looking to build on his terrific freshman season. In last week’s win over UCF, McGough completed 29 of 38 passes (76.3%) for 260 yards and a score. He also ran the ball four times for 12 yards. Ron Turner took note and said the good thing about his QB is “he [McGough] was decisive. He knew when to pull down and take-off, he knew when to throw it and got rid of the ball quickly. That’s a sign of maturity. He’s been a different guy from camp last year. Last year he was just trying to memorize the playbook and go out and play. This year, he came into spring ball day one, as I said before, ‘It’s my team. I’m the guy. Let’s go.’ He showed that kind of leadership and he showed tremendous poise during the course of the game.”
McGough will go up against a defense that did not knock down a pass and allowed 411 yards to Southern Illinois last week, so he could be poised for an even bigger week against Indiana if the Hoosiers cannot get pressure on defense.