Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.
1. A coaching redshirt year
FIU will likely be a better team, one that will probably get fewer lucky bounces and will definitely get fewer home games. That will tamp down major bowl hopes. But if the passing game isn't a total albatross, the Panthers will be a tough out, giving us an even more conflicted version of the job Ron Turner is doing.
Sometimes you can only learn so much about yourself. In 2014, Ron Turner's second FIU team used a little bit of turnovers luck and quite a bit of defensive improvement to move from 124th to 96th in the F/+ rankings and from 1-11 to 4-8. It returned most of a bad offense and almost all of a strong defense, aside from a couple of safeties and the defensive coordinator.
The offense was dismal enough to tamp down enthusiasm, but it wasn't hard for me to talk myself into the job Turner was doing. Turner's hire was as maligned as a hire could be, but one could begin to see how it might work out pretty well for FIU.
In 2015, however, FIU dealt with a different kind of luck: injuries luck. It had none. The Golden Panthers returned three starting offensive linemen and got a combined nine starts out of them. They got one game out of starting linebacker Davison Colimon and four out of Treyvon Williams. Their secondary, a strength in 2014, got plucked apart: three of the top five returnees (Jordan Davis, Wilkenson Myrtil, Shermarke Spencer) played a combined five games.
September was as cruel as it could possibly be from an injuries standpoint, and combined with a change in coordinator, the defense fell apart. In terms of S&P+, FIU's defense regressed by about 6.5 points per game, and while the offense improved by 5.5, it was a net loss.
Still, while FIU fell a bit in the advanced ratings, the win total went from four to five. The Golden Panthers alternated between helpless and awesome, crushing three C-USA foes (UTEP, ODU, Charlotte) by a combined 141-55 and continuing to hint at their potential despite an overcrowded treatment room.
The final two games of the year brought perhaps a predictable crash. FIU was run off the field by Marshall and WKU, undoing a lot of the positivity the first 10 games had put together.
Still, while quite a few C-USA teams got waylaid by injury in 2015, not many showed the flashes of quality that the Panthers did. And your post-injury year can often provide you with depth you didn't expect to have. FIU now returns eight linemen with at least seven games of starting experience, four starting linebackers (in a three-LB system), and six to eight starting defensive backs.
The offense, a question mark throughout Turner's tenure, must continue to improve, and the defense must prove it still has the ceiling it showed in 2014. And, of course, injuries could wreak havoc all over again. But if you're looking for a potential breakthrough among the teams in the lower half of C-USA, FIU might be your best bet.
2015 Schedule & Results
|Record: 5-7 | Adj. Record: 4-8 | Final F/+ Rk: 112 | Final S&P+ Rk: 108|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|3-Sep||at Central Florida||128||15-14||W||15%||40%||+12.0||+14.0|
|26-Sep||at Louisiana Tech||57||17-27||L||20%||5%||+8.1||+4.5|
|17-Oct||at Middle Tennessee||82||34-42||L||21%||14%||+4.0||+1.0|
|31-Oct||at Florida Atlantic||96||17-31||L||7%||2%||-12.2||-16.5|
|Points Per Game||25.5||90||29.8||85|
2. Up, down, done
The win expectancy figure above is intended to toss all the stats from a given game up into the air and announce that, with these stats, you could have expected to win this given game X percent of the time. It gives us a way of looking at which teams might have had loaded dice on their side. Sometimes you'll see a team played in a ton of games in the 30- to 70-percent range and that the final record was determined partially by chance.
Other times, you'll get FIU's 2015 season. The Golden Panthers either played well and won or played poorly and lost. After an unlikely win over UCF in the season opener, each of their final four wins were slam dunks above 90 percent in win expectancy. Meanwhile, all seven of their losses were below 20 percent in win expectancy, and five were at five percent or worse. After September 3, there was little room for doubt in any of these results.
With the depth issues that FIU was dealing with, it probably makes sense that the three worst performances of the season (from a percentiles perspective) came in the last four games. FIU undoubtedly faded. And the last two games were lost causes from the opening kickoff.
- Average Percentile Performance (first 2 games): 19% (record: 1-1 | average score: Opp 25, FIU 19)
- Average Percentile Performance (middle 8 games): 42% (record: 4-4 | average score: FIU 33, Opp 24)
- Average Percentile Performance (last 2 games): 1% (record: 0-2 | average score: Opp 58, FIU 4)
In theory, improved health and depth can prevent the same type of fade from happening this time around. That's important because two of the four most highly projected opponents on the schedule show up in November again.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||39.3%||94||Succ. Rt. +||87.1||114|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||30.0||71||Def. FP+||33.5||118|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.5||59||Redzone S&P+||87.8||113|
|Q1 Rk||107||1st Down Rk||115|
|Q2 Rk||117||2nd Down Rk||103|
|Q3 Rk||115||3rd Down Rk||122|
Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Alex McGough||6'3, 218||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8158||269||420||2722||21||8||64.0%||24||5.4%||5.7|
|Bud Martin||6'0, 217||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7733|
|Christian Alexander||6'3, 221||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8297|
|Maurice Alexander||6'0, 180||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7915|
3. Dink and dunk gets you only so far
Only when the bar is really low can you consider FIU's 2015 offensive output "improvement." The Golden Panther attack improved from horrendous to merely bad, but they still weren't particularly good at anything. And while you can perhaps blame offensive line shuffling for part of that, that will only get you so far. FIU has lacked at the skill positions for a while now.
Perhaps because of the line and a lack of confidence in the run, FIU's play-calling approach changed drastically in 2015. In 2014, the Panthers ran the ball 65 percent of the time on standard downs and 40 percent on passing downs; last fall those percentages shifted to 45 percent and 27 percent, respectively. And that manifested itself in the form of lots of dinks and lots of dunks. Alex McGough completed 64 percent of his passes, which seems impressive at first. But he averaged just 10.1 yards per completion -- only 25 of his 269 completions gained 25 yards.
An efficiency passing game can work if it's actually efficient. But while FIU's No. 91 ranking in Passing Success Rate+ was a relative strength, it wasn't something that could carry FIU against decent defenses.
If FIU could break at least a few big plays from short passes, the Golden Panthers were in business. In their last four wins, McGough completed 69 percent of his passes at 12.8 yards per completion -- not explosive, but not awful. In the other eight games, though? A 62 percent completion rate and just 8.7 yards per completion. You could see exactly what FIU wanted to do offensively, but it only occasionally worked.
|Alex Gardner||RB||5'10, 192||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8106||186||760||9||4.1||3.8||30.6%||2||2|
|Alex McGough||QB||6'3, 218||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8158||64||275||3||4.3||3.8||34.4%||8||4|
|Anthony Jones||RB||5'11, 190||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8226||48||243||2||5.1||6.3||31.3%||0||0|
|Silas Spearman III||RB||5'8, 190||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7800|
|Napoleon Maxwell||RB||6'0, 208||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7706|
|Alfonso Randolph||RB||5'11, 197||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7800|
|Shawndarrius Phillips||RB||5'11, 226||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7756|
|D'Angelo Ware||RB||5'9, 190||Fr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.8500|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|Thomas Owens||WR||6'1, 198||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7000||88||51||638||58.0%||20.4%||7.3||56.8%||47.7%||1.42|
|Alex Gardner||RB||5'10, 192||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8106||68||60||442||88.2%||15.8%||6.5||72.1%||51.5%||1.12|
|Jonnu Smith||TE||6'3, 232||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7833||56||36||397||64.3%||13.0%||7.1||64.3%||39.3%||1.70|
|Julian Williams||WR||5'11, 190||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7200||39||19||176||48.7%||9.0%||4.5||59.0%||30.8%||1.38|
|Dennis Turner||WR||6'0, 175||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8026||24||11||150||45.8%||5.6%||6.3||50.0%||29.2%||2.05|
|Anthony Jones||RB||5'11, 190||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8226||11||5||22||45.5%||2.6%||2.0||72.7%||18.2%||1.07|
|Shawn Abrams||WR||6'4, 175||Sr.||NR||NR||10||6||74||60.0%||2.3%||7.4||70.0%||50.0%||1.34|
|Shug Oyegunle||WR||5'9, 193||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7894||3||2||83||66.7%||0.7%||27.7||33.3%||33.3%||7.88|
|Jonathan Pavlov||TE||6'4, 251||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7894|
|Stantley Thomas||WR||6'2, 185||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7926|
|Tony Gaiter||WR||5'9, 178||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8148|
|Darrius Scott||WR||5'11, 185||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7889|
4. Big plays, somehow, some way
Here's a list of FIU returnees whose stats hint at potential explosiveness:
- Sophomore running back Anthony Jones, whose 6.3 highlight yards per opportunity was well above average (anything over about 5 is pretty good, and anything over 10 means you're Dalvin Cook).
- Junior receiver Thomas Owens caught a combined 15 passes for 282 yards (18.8 per catch) against Indiana, UTEP, and Charlotte (and averaged 9.9 per catch against everybody else).
- Junior receiver Shug Oyegunle caught a 79-yard touchdown against UTEP, and junior Dennis Turner caught a 64-yard touchdown aganist NC Central. They otherwise combined for 11 catches and 90 yards.
That's pretty much it. These guys did most of their damage against NC Central (FCS) and UTEP (122nd in Def. S&P+), but we at least have visual evidence that they can get into the open field and outrun people.
There's experience in the skill position arsenal, but one way or another, FIU will need to generate a few more big plays if the Golden Panthers want to make a serious run at a bowl bid.
Maybe it comes via experience -- fast guys get smarter and more able to use their speed as they get more reps (and better blocking). Or maybe it comes from a newcomer. Freshman RB D'Angelo Ware was a mid-three-star recruit per the 247Sports Composite, and Tony Gaiter was a three-star as well. Stantley Thomas is a high-two-star with decent size.
It just has to come from somewhere. Dink and dunk might work on NC Central, but as we saw last year, it doesn't work on everybody. It forces you to be flawless in your execution, and FIU ... is not flawless.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||2015 Starts||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Michael Montero||C||6'2, 299||Sr.||NR||NR||12||12||2015 2nd All-CUSA|
|Jordan Budwig||LG||6'4, 324||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7941||0||24|
|Dieugot Joseph||LT||6'6, 297||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7726||5||15|
|Daquane Wilkie||RT||6'3, 284||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7000||12||12|
|Edens Sineace||RT||6'5, 303||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7000||8||8|
|Trenton Saunders||RG||6'4, 290||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8041||5||8|
|Chris Miller||LG||6'4, 328||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7656||7||7|
|Kai Absheer||RG||6'5, 305||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7000||7||7|
|Neal Mars||C||6'3, 287||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7652||0||0|
|Chris Flaig||RG||6'5, 302||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7759||0||0|
|Josh Deuyour||OL||6'9, 310||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7706||0||0|
|Dallas Connell||OG||6'3, 283||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7785|
|Douglas Connell||C||6'3, 288||Fr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7678|
|Shane McGough||C||6'2, 280||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7556|
5. Injuries created a wealth of experience, part 1
That FIU's line stats improved at all could be a sign of good things to come. The Golden Panthers ranked 124th in Adj. Line Yards and 125th in Adj. Sack Rate in 2014, and while quick passing helped to keep pressure off of the QB, improvement to 117th and 61st, respectively, is still improvement. That FIU raised its level at least a little bit without almost any starting experience was impressive.
Aaron Nielsen, Jordan Budwig, and Dieugot Joseph had combined for 57 of FIU's 60 returning starts heading into 2015, and they combined to start just nine games. Budwig missed the whole season, and both Nielsen and Joseph missed about two-thirds. This forced freshmen like Daquane Wilkie, Chris Miller, and Kai Absheer into action, and while the result wasn't good, again, it wasn't any worse than 2014.
Now Budwig and Joseph rejoin a line that features a ton of sophomores and all-conference center Michael Montero. If FIU can establish the run at least a LITTLE bit and force defenses to mind the line of scrimmage, they can get more two-on-one opportunities in their quick passing game. And they can stress defenses to the point of giving up a few more big plays. The line might now have the depth to play its part in that equation.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||48.6%||123||Succ. Rt. +||79.3||126|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||29.8||69||Off. FP+||26.5||115|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.4||65||Redzone S&P+||90.2||108|
|Q1 Rk||104||1st Down Rk||125|
|Q2 Rk||110||2nd Down Rk||105|
|Q3 Rk||115||3rd Down Rk||115|
6. From one extreme to the other
Before essentially trading coordinators with Pitt, FIU's defense was admirably aggressive. The 2014 Golden Panther defense was willing to sacrifice a few big plays in the name of three-and-outs, and for the most part it worked. FIU was good against the run and better against the pass, and they closed out drives beautifully: 17th in Passing Downs S&P+, 35th in Redzone S&P+.
Defensive coordinator Josh Conklin was did well enough that new Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi plucked him away to run a different Panther defense. In turn, Turner hired Matt House, who had been Paul Chryst's defensive coordinator at Pitt in 2014.
Between the coordinator change and the injury-addled back seven, FIU's defensive identity flipped around 180 degrees. In 2015, the Panthers ranked 126th in Success Rate+ but allowed just 46 gains of 20-plus yards, 17th in the country. Aggressive in 2014, they turned into one of the bendiest bend-don't-break defenses in FBS. Consequently, it faded through the course of 60 minutes, getting a little bit worse in each successive quarter, and it offered almost no resistance against Marshall and WKU at the end of the season.
In 2016, we should find out how much of this flexibility was design and how much of this was necessity. If the injury bug doesn't bite quite as much, House should be able to deploy a pretty solid back seven, but now he has something new to worry about: a completely reconstructed pass rush.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Imarjaye Albury||DT||6'1, 293||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8382||12||12.0||1.8%||0.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Marques Cheeks||DT||6'3, 290||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8116||11||8.5||1.3%||0.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Josh Glanton||DE||6'3, 263||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7200||9||7.5||1.1%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Leonard Washington||DT||6'0, 295||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7400||12||5.5||0.8%||1.5||0.0||0||0||0||1|
|Fermin Silva||DE||6'2, 234||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8361||9||5.0||0.8%||0.5||0.5||0||0||0||0|
|John Broome||DE||6'2, 241||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7794||6||5.0||0.8%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Milord Juste||DT||6'0, 268||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7959||7||3.5||0.5%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Anthony Johnson||DE||6'3, 266||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7744||12||2.5||0.4%||0.0||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Madison Kubat||DE||6'2, 237||Sr.||NR||NR||6||2.0||0.3%||0.0||0.0||0||0||1||0|
|Jermaine Sheriff||DE||6'2, 250||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7556|
|R.J. Harris||DE||6'3, 263||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8115|
|Newton Salisbury||DE||6'3, 246||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7000|
|Devontay Taylor||DE||6'3, 278||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7793|
|Andrew Tarver||DT||6'1, 305||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8054|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Anthony Wint||LB||6'0, 224||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7876||12||64.5||9.7%||5.5||0.5||1||2||0||0|
|LB||6'1, 217||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7600||12||40.0||30.0%||8.0||4.0||1||0||0||1|
|Vontarius West||LB||6'0, 203||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8331||12||30.5||4.6%||3.5||0.0||0||0||1||0|
|Treyvon Williams||LB||6'0, 229||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7839||4||26.5||4.0%||1.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|De'Shawn Hazziez||LB||6'2, 214||Sr.||NR||NR||12||14.5||2.2%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Jordan Guest||LB||6'4, 221||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7683||10||9.5||1.4%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Fred Russ||LB||6'0, 228||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7659||7||4.0||0.6%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
7. The only playmakers are gone
At first glance, it appears the linebackers didn't really do their jobs in 2015. FIU did well in short-yardage situations and made a decent number of stops in the backfield, but if a runner got past the line of scrimmage, he ran a long way.
This, along with a pass rush that was almost completely driven by the line, gives you an idea of last year's front-seven strengths and weaknesses. FIU was able to penetrate a bit with its defensive line. But in 2016 the linebacking corps better be ready to step up because the line is replacing four of its top five, including each of its three best pass rushers.
The defensive tackle position appears to be in decent shape. Seniors Imarjaye Albury, Marques Cheeks and Leonard Washington all return, and all bring decent size to the table. But active tackle Lars Koht is gone, as are a pair of ends that combined for 25.5 tackles for loss. Can a set of ends led by sophomore Fermin Silva (a former star recruit) and senior Josh Glanton be nearly as effective? And if not, is higher aggression even an option for House?
Linebacker is definitely more well-stocked with the return of Davison Colimon; he should be able to replicate Jephete Matilus' production, and former star recruit Vontarius West might be ready to raise his game in his junior campaign. But it's possible that improvement at LB is simply offset by regression up front. And that's a little scary.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Tyree Johnson||S||5'9, 188||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7656||12||51.5||7.8%||1||0||0||4||1||0|
|Niko Gonzalez||S||5'11, 191||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7000||10||36.0||5.4%||2.5||0||2||4||0||0|
|S||6'1, 218||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7400||12||34.0||5.3%||0||0||1||2||1||0|
|Xavier Hines||S||5'11, 189||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8274||11||28.5||4.3%||1.5||1||0||0||0||0|
|Mark Bruno||CB||5'10, 178||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7956||11||22.5||3.4%||2||1||1||4||1||0|
|Deonte Wilson||CB||6'0, 190||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7200||11||15.0||2.3%||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|CB||6'0, 196||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7500||12||14.0||2.2%||0||0||2||2||0||0|
|Shermarke Spence (2014)||S||5'9, 182||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7444||12||12.5||2.0%||0||0||1||1||1||0|
|Emmanuel Lubin||CB||6'1, 187||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8106||9||7.0||1.1%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Kenyatta Anderson||CB||6'0, 188||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8222||9||4.5||0.7%||0||0||0||1||0||0|
|Jeremy Derrick||LB||6'2, 202||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7906|
|Sage Lewis||LB||6'1, 232||RSFr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7980|
|Hunter Orem||LB||6'2, 207||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7966|
|Shakur Cooper||LB||6'1, 217||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7900|
|Jestin Green||CB||6'0, 184||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7898|
|Isaiah Hill||S||5'11, 195||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7826|
8. Injuries created a wealth of experience, part 2
If the pass rush fades, the secondary will be asked to do more than it did a year ago, and it will have to do so without its two starting cornerbacks; Richard Leonard and Jeremiah McKinnon combined for five tackles for loss, four interceptions, and 16 break-ups last year, and that puts pressure on players like sophomore Mark Bruno and seniors Deonte Wilson and Wilkenson Myrtil to produce, along with perhaps former three-star signees Emmanuel Lubin and Kenyatta Anderson.
But at the very least, we know that safety should be a strength. Sophomore Tyree Johnson was thrust into a pretty significant role last year, as were juniors Niko Gonzalez and Xavier Hines. But they're all back, as are previously injured Jordan Davis and Shermarke Spence. Gonzalez and Hines are both potentially small enough to move to corner if need be, and if they were to do so, the depth should still allow FIU to field good safeties.
The return of Myrtil and Davis in particular allows for a situation where FIU loses two of four starters but still returns four staters.
|Stone Wilson||5'10, 178||So.||42||40.5||2||18||10||66.7%|
|Chris Ayers||6'0, 180||Sr.||21||39.4||3||9||4||61.9%|
|Austin Taylor||5'8, 176||Sr.||57||59.6||18||0||31.6%|
|Stone Wilson||5'10, 178||So.||5||61.0||1||0||20.0%|
|Austin Taylor||5'8, 176||Sr.||32-36||8-10||80.0%||2-4||50.0%|
|Anthony Jones||KR||5'11, 190||So.||9||23.3||0|
|Special Teams S&P+||74|
|Field Goal Efficiency||66|
|Punt Return Success Rate||9|
|Kick Return Success Rate||60|
|Punt Success Rate||83|
|Kickoff Success Rate||73|
9. Lots of potential on special teams
So many C-USA teams were reliant on freshmen in key special teams roles, and FIU was no different -- punter Stone Wilson was decent in his first year, and Anthony Jones showed promise as a backup kick returner.
But unlike many of the teams we've previewed so far, FIU was actually decent in special teams. The pressure's on Jones and whoever else is tasked with replacing Richard Leonard, a solid return man, but Wilson is back and kicker Austin Taylor proved reasonably strong-legged. Taylor needs to bring a little bit more consistency to the table (he was 2-for-4 on long field goals but missed four PATs), but FIU ranked 83rd or better in every special teams efficiency category. It could be worse.
2016 Schedule & Projection Factors
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk||Proj. Margin||Win Probability|
|5-Nov||at Western Kentucky||45||-21.7||10%|
|26-Nov||at Old Dominion||111||-4.5||40%|
|Projected wins: 4.4|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||-30.1% (112)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||105 / 98|
|2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||3 / -2.1|
|2015 TO Luck/Game||+2.1|
|Returning Production (Off. / Def.)||64% (80%, 48%)|
|2015 Second-order wins (difference)||4.7 (0.3)|
10. Count the tossups
If FIU can simply keep most of its intended starters on the field at any given time, the Golden Panthers should rise back into the top 100 and, with seven opponents projected 90th or worse S&P+, threaten for their first bowl bid since 2011. And with two power-conference foes -- Indiana and Maryland -- visiting to start the season, there's a chance for a statement win on top.
I like the depth and experience Ron Turner has put together, both intentionally and by way of injury/necessity. The offense just needs a little something from the run game, and the defense needs to produce just a little bit of a pass rush for the Golden Panthers to end up a couple of steps ahead of the league's bottom teams. We'll see if they get it.
We saw FIU's upside on four occasions last year, even with the injuries. Now we just need to see more of it. If FIU is around 90th instead of 110th, it could swing a lot of games. Following the Indiana and Maryland games, the Golden Panthers play seven consecutive games in which it has between a 35 and 52 percent chance of winning. If they're a little bit better than projected, they could go 5-2 or better. Worse, and they could go 1-6 and plant Turner firmly on the hot seat.