1. FIU might be the most complete team in the Sun Belt, and will remain in the conference title conversation the rest of the way. Crazy as it may seem for a program that had won seven total SBC heading into the year, but the stats don't lie. FIU is the only team that ranks in the top half of the conference in total offense (4th, 368.8 ypg) and total defense (1st, 340.7).
2. Wesley Carroll has got it going lately. After struggling his first three games at FIU, the redshirt junior has completed 58 percent of his passes for 619 yards and two touchdowns in the last three, throwing just one interception in that stretch. And with the FIU running game now clicking, Carroll doesn't have to carry to the team for the Panthers to win. It's a good formula.
3. That being said, don't start polishing those conference title rings quite yet. Yes, the Panthers are 2-0 in the conference, but those wins have come against teams that are a combined 1-12 this year. We know FIU can beat the bad teams. But how about the good? After the bye awaits FAU (1-4, 0-2), which always plays FIU tough, and then the Panthers play five of the conference's six best teams to finish out the season. A good test will be Louisiana-Monroe on Nov. 6.
4. Without doubt, the Panthers will need their special teams to win a close game for them at some point this year. Which means, T.Y. Hilton will probably need to take over a game at some point. While Hilton has scored on offense the last two weeks, he's been conspicuously quiet in the return game. The Panthers rank eighth in the conference, averaging 18.3 yards per kickoff, and manage just 6.1 yards per punt return.
5. FIU's brutal non-conference schedule, although great for giving the team national exposure, may in the end cost the program a bowl bid this year. The 0-4 start against nothing but BCS conference competition has made the math awfully tough for FIU to get to seven wins, which Sun Belt schools most certainly will need to go bowling. Six and six likely won't get it done, because all the .500 teams from the major (and other mid-major) conferences will earn a spot before it goes to an SBC representative. Comes down to dollars and cents. So unless 6-2 captures the Sun Belt's automatic bid, FIU likely needs to go 7-1 in conference to earn the team's first bowl berth.
CLARIFICATION: NCAA rules state that any 7-5 team from a conference will receive a bowl berth ahead of any 6-6 team from the same conference, regardless of where they finish in the conference standings. So, FIU could finish 6-2 in the Sun Belt, yet still be the third option for a bowl. If Middle Tennessee goes 6-2 in the Sun Belt, it would be 7-5 overall, and get the bid. More unlikely, but still possible: If ULM beats LSU later in the year, the Warhawks could still go 5-3 in the Sun Belt and finish 7-5, beating out 6-6, 6-2 FIU. Of course, we're getting way ahead of ourselves, but just wanted to set the record straight.