FIU has the blueprint for dealing with a team with an explosive offense. After all the Panthers will be playing their third consecutive game against a powerful, high-scoring offense Saturday when they visit WKU. FIU hung in against Louisiana Tech and Middle Tennessee the last two weeks but with very little margin for error the Panthers couldn't close the deal in either game.
WKU scores 41.6 points per game and averages 506 total yards per game. Those are similar numbers to the Panthers' two previous opponents, LA Tech and Middle Tennessee.
In each of the two previous contests, FIU slipped up somewhere that decided the two competitive games. Against LA Tech, FIU allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown and a long interception return inside the FIU 5 that resulted in a touchdown. Against MT, the Blue Raiders jumped to a 21-0 lead before FIU could respond and a late pick six was the deciding touchdown. But like I mentioned before FIU lost the game to MT when neither the Panthers offense or defense had an answer in the first six minutes of the game when the Blue Raiders scored 21 unanswered points.
Now comes WKU argubaly one of the top three teams in Conference USA along with LA Tech and MT. FIU must have forgotten to send a Christmas card to the C-USA office last December for the Panthers to have a 2016 schedule that featured these three teams in a row.
The blueprint for the Panthers to win at WKU, again will be similar to the LA Tech and MT games: run the ball effectively to not only take pressure off of quarterback Alex McGough but to control the clock and limit possessions by the very good WKU offense. It won't be easy because WKU has one of the best run defenses in the league allowing just over 100 yards per game. Several three-and-outs on offense could turn the game into a rout if WKU executes offensively as it has all season.
The FIU defense cannot allow WKU the chunk plays or quick strike touchdowns. The Panthers defense must make the Hilltoppers work for every yard. Getting pressure or hitting WKU quarterback Mike White several times will help a lot. FIU hasn't been able to deliver much QB pressure for the majority of the season.
The last part of the blueprint has to do with FIU getting some kind of spark on special teams whether it be a long return or causing a WKU turnover to not only keep the WKU offense on the sideline but possibly set up the FIU offense in good field position.
Weather should be no factor whatsoever in Bowling Green, Kentucky on Saturday afternoon. Temperature is expected to be a high of 69 degrees with sunny skies and just a 10 percent chance of rain.
The city of neon lights thinks WKU is the number in October that Halloween falls on better than FIU. That might be too high. Yes, WKU is a terrific offense and Houchens Stadium is a tough place for a road team to win at and FIU hasn't had much success there, but the Panthers offense has done well since Ron Cooper became the interim head coach. FIU seems to be playing with more confidence and looser. We'll see if FIU can spring a trick or two on WKU and come home to Miami with the treat of an upset win.