The Sun Belt Conference season begins for FIU on Saturday afternoon at FIU Stadium against Western Kentucky at 3:30 p.m.
But what has been one theme this season for the Panthers is it's not really how they have started, but how they have finished. As you may recall from an earlier blog this week on The Prowl, FIU has outscored opponents 65-63 through three quarters this season. And these are some quality foes that the Panthers have done this against.
However, in the fourth quarter this season the Panthers have been outscored 69-14 and this season the fourth quarter is WKU's best quarter having outscored opponents 40-38.
So by now you can kind of figure out where I'm going with this WKU/FIU game preview. Let's cue Regis Philbin (right) and use a variation of the phrase he made famous. RP used to say: "Is that your final answer?" on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"
Well, we will ask here on The Prowl: What's the final answer to Saturday's game? Do the Panthers build an insurmountable lead early and not have to worry about the fourth quarter or will this game be like most Sun Belt games so far this season and have it come down to the fourth quarter? You can vote in our poll in the left-hand column of The Prowl.
I am thinking the latter is going to happen. This is a much improved Western Kentucky team with one of the more dangerous running backs in the nation in Bobby Rainey, who is the No. 8 leading rusher in the NCAA, averaging 127 rushing yards per game.
Yes, this is a new season and a new FIU defense, but we saw last year up in Bowling Green, Kentucky what Rainey and even WKU quarterback Kawaun Jakes are capable of when they have room to roam. The Panthers need another big game from safety Jonathan Cyprien (left, thanks Sam Lewis photo) and their D to control the WKU running game. Cyp had a team-leading 10 tackles along with El Oso in last year's game.
Rainey ran for 99 yards and a touchdown and although Jakes did not have the big numbers due to a couple of sacks, he did rush for 81 yards. The dual threat QBs have been a headache before for the Panthers. FIU's D must stop the WKU run to have success on Saturday. Make Jakes try to beat you with his arm.
The Hilltoppers D allows almost 44 points per game and 205 rushing yards per game. These numbers were put up by: Nebraska, Kentucky, Indiana and South Florida -- not too shabby foes.
Still, FIU has the playmakers on O (keep feeding the ball to WT & GE and more Goodbye) and an ever-improving QB in Wesley Carroll. The Panthers should score enough on Saturday to position themselves for a W. Then it will be time to close out the Hilltoppers in the fourth quarter.
One more note before we get to the prediction. Keep an eye on WKU's extracurricular activities. For years, the Hilltoppers football team has been known for taking cheap shots before and after the whistle. This usually leads their opponent to react. What usually happens after that is the refs catch the second person [WKU's opponent] and flag them with some yellow laundry. So FIU has to beware and keep its cool when WKU takes those cheap shots on Saturday.
This game will be a lot closer than many people think. Rainey will keep the Hilltoppers in the game for most of Saturday afternoon, but the Panthers will do enough on O, D and special teams to earn their first win of the season in a close Sun Belt opener.
The defending Sun Belt Conference Baseball Champion FIU Panthers open fall practice today. Check this STORY out by Mat Spielberg of FIUSports.com for a preview of fall ball. We will get some of the defending champs on here next week to talk about preparing for the 2011 season.
We'll have a LIVE B-I-G BLOG on The Prowl of the WKU/FIU game this Saturday as the Panthers open Sun Belt Conference play at FIU Stadium. Game time is at 3:30 p.m. We'll be on-line at 3:14 p.m. Just click on The Prowl on Saturday at 3:14 p.m. and we'll direct you to our new BIG BLOG on FIUSports.com.
"The Golden Picks" scores for WKU/FIU need to be in to The Prowl by 3:29 p.m. on Saturday.
kjharris02: Pete....i looked up on our Direct TV ESPN Gameplan and it says that the WKU vs. FIU game is on channel 791 up here in No. FL. ! Do u know if this is true or is it blacked out?
PP: There is no blackout so you should be able to see the game in North Florida.
SouthPaw: Alright, Pete, a couple of questions: 1. What is the status of Jason Fitch? Is he done for the year/will he be redshirted? 2. Will James Jones finally play this week? 3. Is Larvez Mars going to be redshirted? 4. What's the status of Richard Leonard, our most highly rated DB recruit in last year's class. Is he being greyshirted?
PP: 1. He is likely done for the season and will be redshirted. 2. Jones should get some snaps this week. He's been practicing. 3. Pooh Bear's status is still up in the air. He has been practicing, but we will have to wait and see if and when he gets into a game. 4. Leonard did not qualify at FIU.