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2011 Record: (8-5, 5-3 in Sun Belt)

Head Coach: Mario Cristobal (24-38 at FIU, 18-20 in Sun Belt)

Last Bowl Game: 2011 Beef O' Brady's Bowl: lost to Marshall 20-10

2011 Preview

 

Schedule Glimpse:

2012 Schedule Link

Big Name Opponents: 9/1 at Duke, 9/22 vs Louisville

Must Win: 9/8 vs Akron, 11/3 at South Alabama, 11/16 at FAU

Revenge: 9/29 at Louisiana, 10/4 vs Arkansas St, 10/27 vs WKU

 

Statistical Snapshot:

2011 Statistics Link

Stat to Cheer: converted on 86.96% of trips to red zone (2nd in Sun Belt)

Stat to Fear: converted 37.23% of third down conversions (7th in Sun Belt, 92nd in Nation)

 

Personnel:

Phil Steele's Returning Starters: (Offense: 7; Defense: 10; Specialists: 2)

Key Defensive Returnees: LB Winston Fraser (108 tackles, 4 sacks), LB Jordan Hunt (85 tackles, 4 sacks) S Jonathan Cyprien (81 tackles), DE Tourek Williams (32 tackles, 4.5 sacks), DE Greg Hickman (34 tackles, 4 sacks), DT Isame Faciane (32 tackles, 3 sacks),

Key Offensive Returnees: RB Kedrick Rhodes (1149 yds, 8 TD), WR Wayne Times (54 rec, 2 TD), OT Caylin Hauptmann, C Shae Smith

Top Recruits: DT Darrian Dyson (Scout.com's #68 DT), OLB Patrick Jean (#88 OLB), DE Byran Attaway (#131 DE), WR DeAndre Jasper (#137 WR)

 

Verdict:

Mario Cristobol has been at the helm of the Golden Panthers for the last five years and he has them headed in the right direction. In 2010, they burst onto the scene by winning the most games in school history (they've only been around since 2002). Last year they didn't have as much success in the conference but finished the year with a school best eight wins including a victory of Louisville.

On offense, FIU must replace WR T.Y. Hilton (72 rec, 9 TD) and QB Wesley Carroll (14 TD, 4 INT). Leading rusher Kedrick Rhodes (1149 yds, 8 TD) is back and despite the loss of Hilton the wide receiver corps is still deep. In addition to the returning WRs, the Golden Panthers also bring in Ohio State transfer James Louis. Sophomore Jake Medlock should take over at QB but keep an eye on true freshman E.J. Hilliard. Hilliard was good enough this spring to move into a spot where he was splitting reps with the second string QB. He has a strong arm and is very elusive when running the football. Another thing to watch is that FIU will run a faster-paced offense with new coordinator Tim Cramsey (he worked with Chip Kelly at New Hampshire). FIU averaged 25 points per game last year but if everything goes according to plan they could top that this year despite losing their franchise player and their QB. Oh yeah, FIU also has the most starts returning on the OL in the Sun Belt (and sixth most in the Nation).

FIU's bread and butter the last couple of years has been the defense as they've led the Sun Belt in scoring defense for two straight years. FIU had 34 sacks last year (second in the Sun Belt) and they only lost two seniors (that combined for four sacks). I would expect the FIU defense will continue to get after the QB. Another stat that sticks out is that no seniors had any interceptions for FIU last year (they had 14 overall). FIU's defense is experienced as they return their top eight tacklers from last years squad. Expect the FIU defense to be strong this season and better than last year.

Quarterback play is big and it's always tough to replace a senior quarterback but everything points to FIU having a strong year and challenging for the Sun Belt Championship. FIU's schedule is front loaded with out of conference titles with Duke and revenge minded Louisville. Their first two conference games will be against the best two teams in the conferences (not named FIU) in Louisiana and Arkansas State and then they've got a trip to what should be a much improved Troy on Oct 20th. The key for FIU will not be getting behind early because it should all be downhill at the end of the year for the Golden Panthers.

 

2012 Prediction: 8-4

 

Previous 2012 Previews:

ACC: Virginia

C-USA: Memphis, Rice, Southern Miss, Tulane, UTEP

Independent: Navy

MAC: Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, CMU, EMU, Kent St, Miami (OH), NIU, Ohio, Toledo, UMass, WMU

MWC: Air Force, Colorado St, Fresno St, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, San Diego St, Wyoming

Sun Belt: Arkansas St, FAU, Louisiana, MTSU, North Texas, South Alabama, Troy, ULM, WKU

WAC: Idaho, New Mexico St, San Jose St, Texas State, Utah State, UTSA


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