The only time FIU beat Middle Tennessee in the 3 games played between the two teams was in a 35-31 offensive shootout to close the 2005 season. Former FIU DB Kent Henderson batted down a last-play Hail Mary in the end zone to preserve the Golden Panthers win at old FIU Stadium. That's former FIU DB Cory Fleming (left) picking off a pass in the 2005 game vs. MT.
The teams play the 4th game of the series Saturday night and it should not be a points-fest like the only time FIU/MT played in Miami.
We should have a better idea of how much your Golden Panthers have improved by Sunday after they tussle with the Blue Raiders -- which BTW, you can follow the game on a LIVE GPP blog on Saturday beginning at 6:45 p.m. If you're at FIU Stadium, post a comment with your Blackberries or whatever berry you use. Or just yell at me in the first row of the open-air press box by the east end zone.
Yes, FIU has gotten better this season compared to last, no doubt. But let's put all the cards out on the table: Toledo and North Texas are not world-beaters, but the 2 wins give FIU much-needed confidence heading into Saturday.
The back-to-back wins against Toledo and North Texas were what the doctor ordered, especially after a 1-11 season last year. It also showed the Golden Panthers what they are capable of when all 3 facets of the team are clicking.
The wins also give FIU some momentum going against MT, which a win Sat. would give FIU a share of the Sun Belt lead after 2 games (yes, I know it's just 2 games, but you good people would have had me committed had I written "give FIU a share of the Sun Belt lead" just a year ago).
An FIU win this Sat. leads to a showdown at Troy for first place next week and equals the best start in program history at 3-3 -- the 2002 FIU inaugural team started 3-3.
A win would also equal a program-best 3-game winning streak -- done once before to close the 2005 season. A 2005 team El Monstruo was an instrumental part of. And what would a trip down FIU Memory Lane be without a mention of EM (left, blocking an MT punt in 2005).
But FIU cannot put the cart in front of the horse. FIU has to deal with a dangerous Middle Tennessee team that has won the last 2 games against FIU and allowed just 6 points in each of those games (7-6 and 47-6 wins).
There are several things about the Blue Raiders that could possibly leave FIU blue.
After having seen MT in a couple of games this season, I think the MT D may be the best D FIU has faced since Iowa. The Blue Raiders caused problems for Maryland, Kentucky and Florida Atlantic, however Troy and Arkansas State -- 2 of the other top SBC teams -- were able to score 31. So it's not like FIU is going against the 85' Super Bowl Shufflin' Bears, but still it will be the biggest challenge for the FIU O since Iowa.
What makes the MT D so tough is its big D-Line and strong secondary led by safety Jeremy Kellem. The FIU O-Line has to give PM time and some space for the FIU RBs, like A'mod Ned (left, as a freshman in 2005 scoring a TD vs. MT)
On offense, MT has QB Joe Craddock back, who missed last year's game vs. FIU with an injury. MT backup QB Dwight Dasher carved up FIU last season and JC can do the same.
The Blue Raiders have a pretty good passing game, which can help out their running game -- which is not a strength. FIU needs to get pressure on JC to disrupt the pass, like Jonas Murrell (right, as a freshman in 2005 sacking MT QB Clint Marks).
Got a feeling this one is going to be a defensive slugfest between two physical defenses. We may see the kickers decide it in a somewhat low-scoring game.
GPP thinks: FIU 22, Middle Tennessee 20
**FIU/MT scores for the WIN A GPP BLOG are due by 6:59 p.m. GPP Time on Saturday.