Game Info / How to Watch
Who? Indiana Hoosiers (0-0, proj #58 S&P+) vs Florida International Golden Panthers (0-0, proj. #120 S&P+)
When? Saturday, 8/1 7:00 PM, Miami, Florida
Channel? CBS Sports Network
Vegas? Indiana -10.5.
S&P+ Projection? Indiana by 12.5
Here we go again. Saturday night marks the return of Indiana football. I could try to put words here to describe Hoosier football but
- Kyle put it far more eloquently than I could
- Chris put it far more convincingly than I could
- Odds are if you’ve clicked this article, you know what you’re getting yourself into.
Indiana went through an off-season only Indiana could. They returned a starting quarterback from last year, added Indiana’s Mr. Football, added a 4-star QB from Florida, landed a graduate transfer at quarterback and lost a graduate transfer at quarterback. The lead running back has been suspended and the top wide receiver has graduated.
The defense has went through wholesale turnover. While Marcelino Ball will likely lead the defense, replacing the likes of Tegray Scales, Chris Covington and Rashard Fant will be tall tasks for Tom Allen. The trio spearheaded the defensive revival in Bloomington but now leave gaping holes to fill.
But what would football at Memorial Stadium be without tons of uncertainty.
There are no numbers for the first two weeks of the season as S&P team profiles likely won’t be out until after Week Two. What we do have is a mixture of last season’s S&P figures and projections for this season found in Bill Connelly’s incredible team-by-team pieces.
Florida International used a bit of good fortune - going 4-1 in one-possession games - with a mix of returning production and a renewed energy under new head coach Butch Davis to make the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, the program’s first bowl game since 2011.
Davis then went out and signed one of the best recruiting classes in the program’s history. There’s plenty of positive momentum around the Golden Panther program. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that few teams lost as much as much production as FIU did. And while the recruiting class may be strong, it rearely pays immediate dividends in football as it does in basketball.
All FIU lost in the off-season was the team’s top quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end.
Wide out Thomas Owens played just eight games and finished with 500 more receiving yards and 25 more receptions than anyone else on the team. But Davis brought in three true freshman to go along with a redshirt freshman to play wideout this season.
In the backfield, Anthony Jones figured to feature prominently after missing last season with an injury but its Napolean Maxwell, who had 81 carries for 477 yards last season, who is the starter.
Under center, there is plenty of uncertainty. Without Alex McGough in the bowl game last season, FIU was routed by Temple 28-3 and managed just 257 yards of offense with Maurice Alexander at the helm.
Alexander stepped into the game due to an injury early to McGough and completed one of his first seven passes, threw two interceptions in that same span and was sacked seven times on the day. So scarred by the performance, Alexander asked the coaching staff to move to wide receiver this season.
Graduate transfer James Morgan, who started 13 games at Bowling Green, joined the competition as well but junior Christian Alexander (no relation to Maurice) reportedly separated himself as the leader in the clubhouse this summer.
The two-deep depth chart for the week lists Alexander OR Morgan as the starter offering no clarity on the situation. Davis, though, did say both would play and both would play in the first half. With IU likely using a similar strategy, there could be four quarterbacks take the field on Saturday.
FIU does return all five starting offensive lineman from last season as the lone source of consistency in the offense
The main takeaway is that after being top-five in returning production last fall, FIU is bottom-five in returning production this fall and have a LOT of questions to answer.
FIU has a top-, or front-, heavy defense this season. Indiana won’t play many defensive lines more talented than the Panthers’ which features Georgia Tech transfer Jordan Woods, Kansas State transfer Josh Little, four-star freshman Tayland Humphrey and four-star JUCO transfer Teair Tart-Spencer.
The talent and depth will be there for FIU and will provide a stiff early test for the Hoosiers.
From there, though, FIU has tons of questions. FIU graduated four starting defensive backs and two starting linebackers. The worse news is FIU already had an awful pass defense last season, ranking 124th in passing S&P and allowing a 65 percent completion percentage, and have wholes everywhere.
It really depends on which argument you believe stronger in: the idea that FIU could hardly be worse than last season or the idea that the lost four starters in the secondary. Either way, in week one, one would imagine IU would have an advantage in that area.
There isn’t much to discuss that hasn’t been touched on already for IU. Both Ramsey and Penix could see time Saturday because when you have two good QBs, why pick one when you can play both. Morgan Ellison’s suspension technically opens up the running back competition but considering how awful seemingly everyone in the backfield was last year, it was likely never Ellison’s job alone.
The return of Nick Westbrook will go a long way in helping IU overcome the loss of Simmie Cobbs while Luke Timian and Ty Fryfogle have taken the other two starting spots. The line should improve from last season with a true junior, two red-shirt juniors and two seniors, but it could hardly be worse.
The defense is where the uncertainty lies. Ball along with A’Shon Riggins, Raekwon Jones and Johnathan Crawford bring some stability to the defense but it’ll interesting to see if the Hoosiers can maintain strong defensive play or if it disappears with the loss of last season’s graduates.
Another slightly underrated aspect for the Hoosiers is the loss of Griffen Oakes. As up and down as he looked at times for the Hoosiers, he brought stability when healthy. Logan Justus will take the kicking duties for now. J-Shun Harris returning as the punt returner will give IU a spark so long as he remains healthy.
- Peyton Ramsey vs. Mike Penix - Regardless if Ramsey is listed as the No. 1, it’ll likely be an open competition in the first weeks of the season, especially if Ramsey is as shaky as he looked last season. The sooner Indiana figures out who is The Guy for this season, the better for the Hoosiers.
- IU O-line vs. FIU D-line - IU lost so many games last year largely due to poor offensive line play (and other reasons, to be fair). The growing pains should be over for the Hoosiers and they need to be against FIU. Struggles on the offensive line throw everything off course and make it next to impossible to have a functioning offense.
- Running back competition - As previously stated, nobody separated themselves in the backfield last year for the Hoosiers (partly due to the offensive line performance). The competition remains wide open with Cole Gest getting the start, Mike Majette the backup and Ricky Brookins the third-stringer. Finding one that can take the lion’s share of the carries will only make Indiana’s offense that much stronger.
As many questions as IU might have on offense or defense, FIU has more. It might work out in the long-run for FIU, but in week one, Indiana has the advantage.
Indiana 31, FIU 21