Look, we've got three months of no IU athletics, so let's take this time to preview the Hoosiers' opponents for this upcoming football season. Each week until the season, we'll be going through the opponents one by one and looking at whatever we find interesting and/or hilarious about them. And as always, the kick was good. First up: Florida International
Indiana Hoosiers at Florida International Golden Panthers
Last year's record: 5-7
Final F/+ Ranking: 112
Head Coach: Ron Turner
Where: Miami, FL
When: Thursday, September 1, 7:30 pm, ESPNU
1. A pick-six against FIU was one of many moments that saved the Hoosiers' 2015 season
Last year, the Hoosiers held a slim advantage on FIU late in the fourth quarter. With the clock approaching midnight and the Hoosiers already having survived a week 1 scare, fans at Memorial Stadium were getting restless, as the Golden Panthers were threatening to score late in the game. On fourth-and-goal, FIU went for it. A touchdown here would have tied the game. Instead, however, Jameel Cook came up with a 96-yard interception return for IU, turning what could have been a tie game into a comfortable two-touchdown lead. The Hoosiers won 36-22, and the 22 points they gave up to the Golden Panthers was the least amount of points surrendered to any opponents during their 13 games last year.
2. A Thursday night opener on the road is fine. Just don't screw it up.
A few seasons ago, Indiana opened at home on a Thursday night against Indiana State. The game was a bloodbath - the Hoosiers scored 73 on the Sycamores and introduced the world to the greatness that is Tevin Coleman.
This year, the Hoosiers again open on a Thursday. But this time, it's on the road and against a fellow FBS opponent. However, the Thursday night start time gives Indiana a chance at the spotlight before the first Saturday of the season. And unlike past seasons, week 1 has a ton of great games. Just look at the marquee matchups planned for that first Saturday:
Alabama vs. USC!
Oklahoma vs. Houston!
Clemson vs. Auburn!
Wisconsin vs. LSU in Lambeau Field!
Then on Sunday night you get Notre Dame-Texas, and on Labor Day you'll have FSU-Ole Miss. That's a hell of a weekend. And by playing Thursday night, the Hoosiers won't get lost in the shuffle. However, when Indiana struggled to outpace SIU in the opener last year, it went relatively unnoticed because the game took place right in the middle of the first weekend. If IU does struggle against the Golden Panthers, they'll get some rather unwanted publicity.
3. Yes, that's the same Ron Turner.
62 year-old journeyman coach Ron Turner is entering his fourth season at the helm for the Golden Panthers. If you've been following B1G football for 15-20 years now, that name sounds familiar because he once coached at Illinois. Turner spent 8 years at Illinois - one of which ended in a Sugar Bowl berth thanks to Kurt Kittner, but half of them ended at 3-8 or worse, including an 0-11 campaign in 1997. Ironically enough, new Illini AD Josh Whitman played under Turner, and reached out to him in order to help successfully woo Lovie Smith to Champaign, as Turner was offensive coordinator while Smith coached the Bears.
However, I'll give some credit to Turner. He's gradually improved the team from 1-11 in his first season to 5-7 last year. FIU may be one of the toughest jobs in FBS with a small fanbase and another team to compete with in a major market, but he's in a fertile recruiting area in Miami, and in a conference with several young football programs, the Golden Panthers have a chance to make an impact and get a few wins. Speaking of which...
4. Conference USA - which FIU is part of - represents the uncertain future of sports TV rights
Earlier this summer, Conference USA renegotiated its TV deals. Matt Brown wrote a great rundown of what this means, but in short, it's not good for FIU and their conference brethren. For their TV rights, C-USA teams will make between $300,000 and $400,000 in their next deal. This new rights package will only include five games per season on ESPN and many on channels that are hidden in the most expensive cable packages, like BeIN Sports.
Compare that to the B1G, where schools made $21.5 MILLION last year. That's about 60 times as much just in TV revenue! And it's about to get a lot more, as the conference will be getting $250 million per year from Fox starting in 2017 - and that's just for half the total games.
Thus, as it always goes in college athletics, the richer will get richer and the poorer get poorer. And in the world of the NCAA, there's no Bernie Sanders to stand up for the little guys.
The CQ Summer Preview Series will run every week, focusing on a different 2016 Indiana Football opponent each time. Next up: Ball State