Some of the college football preseason previews have hit newsstands and the two I've read have FIU headed for another 0-12 season. Both the Sporting News and Athlon Sports are predicting another winless season for the Golden Panthers.
The GPP won't make any predictions until after getting a long look at the team during fall practice which begins in August. We'll have our two cents for you then. Which is exactly what everybody's predictions are worth anyway -- since none of the writers or fans of college football actually play or coach the sport or know what's going to transpire during the upcoming season.
But lucky for you, the GPP has rented a DeLorean and we're going to go back in time to see what FIU's record would have been last season if MC and his staff coached the most talented Golden Panthers team in the program's five-year history.
Just to refresh, the 2006 Golden Panthers had senior skill players (Josh Padrick, Chandler Williams, Sam Smith) on offense that were All-Sun Belt in 2005. But somewhere along the way, the o-line's needs were not addressed and neither was the kicking game. On defense, FIU had future NFLers Antwan Barnes, Chris Smith, 2-time Sun Belt defensive player of the year Keyonvis Bouie, Alex Bostic and other All-Sun Belt defenders. On an 0-12 team in 2006, this defense finished 1st in the nation in tackles for loss, 4th in pass defense and 28th overall in total defense.
Now before we get the flux capacitor running and the 1.21 jiggawatts, I'm sure there will be some folks, who are not fans of time travelling, who will say "what could MC and staff have done different to prevent an 0-12 season". Like one of the newest readers to the GPP pointed out MC has never had any coordinating experience. True, but just from looking at some of the offense and innovation on both sides of the ball during the spring and watching the discipline and work ethic FIU had under MC in March and April, it might have been a different story in 2006. So let's set the controls in the DeLorean to August 31, 2006. Destination: Murfreesboro, Tennessee...
Aug. 31: Final score: Middle Tennessee 7, FIU 6. . .The easy answer is to point out how FIU lost by missing an extra point. But with some of the offense shown this spring by o-coordinator James Coley, the Golden Panthers make this game a rout, especially with MT needing 3 guys to block "El Monstruo" Barnes most of the game. (Back to the Future FIU record: 1-0, 1-0 in Sun Belt).
Sept. 9: South Florida 21, FIU 20. . .Yeah, yeah, we know another missed extra point. MC would have a recruited kicker, no doubt. But this game fell apart with a USF punt returned for a touchdown and a late FIU turnover deep in its own territory. Better special teams coverage under new ST coach Apollo Wright (some of the former FIU players who were at spring practice this year stood next to me saying things like "we never did that on special teams" or "we haven't done that since high school" when watching Wright direct the STs in practice). The discipline brought by the new coaching staff may have helped prevent that late fumble. (BTTF record 2-0).
Sept. 16: Bowling Green 33, FIU 28. . .A 5-point loss. Here's some of the offensive lowlights: a 9-yard fumble returned for a touchdown. 3 sacks, 3 interceptions. A'mod Ned had a huge day running for 169 yards, but the passing game (145 yards) could not get going. Not Padrick's fault, he had no line and he couldn't call his own plays. Coley's offensive innovation and MC recruiting an o-line turn this game FIU's way. (BTTF 3-0).
Sept. 23: Maryland 14, FIU 10. . .Here's where lack of preparation really hurt. Down 14-10 with 1:35 left in the game, FIU starts at its 20-yard line. "Hello, McFly", Can you say two-minute offense? Golden Panthers offensive players would have liked to, but later told me they never really worked on it in practice. Despite that, FIU drives to the Terps 9, but can't get in the end zone. Again, a little more offense and there's no need for a last minute drive to win. (BTTF 4-0).
Sept. 30: Arkansas State 31, FIU 6. . .This is another lack of preparation game as FIU players admitted afterwards. Coming off almost upsetting Maryland, FIU was thinking "we belong in the ACC". FIU didn't take ASU seriously and that was evident down 21-0 early in the 3rd quarter. Watching that game, FIU was clearly faster and bigger than ASU, but not mentally better. MC and company would have addressed that. (BTTF 5-0, 2-0 SBC).
Oct. 7: North Texas 25, FIU 22 (7 overtimes). . .Yes, again kicking was an issue. But FIU having the ball 1st and goal at the NT 1-yard line in OT and not scoring a TD is inexcusable, especially with a mobile QB in Padrick and not being allowed to use his mobility. I think Coley finds 1 yard in his pocket next to some coins. (BTTF 6-0, 3-0 SBC).
Oct. 14: um 35, FIU 0. . .Here clearly um was more talented as a team than FIU, even with a close score (7-0 in 3rd quarter) before the Rocky auditions broke out. (BTTF 6-1).
Oct. 28: Alabama 38, FIU 3. . .Down only 10-3 at halftime and missing 18 players due to um suspensions, FIU still was mismatched against a better foe. (BTTF 6-2).
Nov. 11: Louisiana-Monroe 35, FIU 0. . .Forget about being undermanned, this was a game where nothing went right. (BTTF 6-3, 3-1 SBC).
Nov. 18: Louisiana-Lafayette 17, FIU 7. . .Here's the classic example of the questionable offensive play calling last season. FIU is ahead 7-3 and driving in the 2nd quarter. The drive started at their own 2 and running back Julian Reams has gained nearly 48 yards on the drive to the 50-yard line. It's now 3rd and 1 at midfield. I don't know? Maybe you give it to Reams who has not been stopped? No, the bubble screen (that has worked 1 time in 4 years) is called and FIU loses 2 yards and has to punt. Again, different thinking on O wins this game the way FIU's D was playing. (BTTF 7-3, 4-1 SBC).
Nov. 25: Florida Atlantic 31, FIU 0. . .Like Monroe, there were no answers for the Owls. (BTTF 7-4, 4-2 SBC).
Dec. 2: Troy 26, FIU 13. . .This game might have been for the Sun Belt Championship. Troy entered the game 5-1 in the conference. Looking at the DeLorean's numbers, FIU was 4-2. With no o-line, a bunch of players still suspended and inept offensive play calling, FIU actually led this game 7-6 just before halftime. But 4 punts, a possesion ending on downs and an interception in the 2nd half ended any hopes of a win. With the new staff, there would have been an o-line, better play calling and an SBC title. (BTTF 8-4, 5-2 SBC).
As for this season, MC and staff have their work cut out for them. All the senior skill players on offense have graduated and so have most of the defense's best players. Going by that alone, you can see how the preseason magazines see an 0-12 season. Whether it will be, we'll find out soon enough. But folks, with the lack of discipline and the predictability of last season behind now, I don't think we'll need to rent another DeLorean to wonder what might have been.