When's the last time an FBS team played a must-win game in the second week of the season against an mediocre-to-bad FCS opponent?
That's where FIU finds itself Saturday against Wagner.
Until somebody shows up with Al Green's version of "I Can't Get Next To You," a '53 Dom Perignon and a 1950 Lena Horne, we are not here to indulge in fantasy. FIU's not beating Pitt or Louisville. The Panthers' very good secondary should slow Marshall, but not enough. I picked an upset of Rice in our season preview section, but the Rice team I saw play Notre Dame is at least 20 points better than FIU right now. If you saw Texas-San Antonio and its 173 seniors Thursday night against Arizona, you know FIU won't want to remember the Alamodome.
Did you see the knot that UAB, the Cindrella in the state of Alabama to Auburn and Alabama's wicked stepsisters, put on Troy's head? Yeah, Troy isn't the Troy of a few years ago, but can you see FIU putting up 489 yards of offense and 48 points on anybody right now? Suddenly, that game at Legion Field doesn't look like any kind of holiday and not just because Rosh Hashana ends the night before.
This is a game FIU needs to win just to keep parts of the athletic department from power bombing Xanax.
They'll get that win.
Last week, defensive coordinator Josh Conklin got to experience the joys of having a pair of cornerbacks he could slap on outside receivers without worry. With Richard Leonard and Jeremiah McKinnon coating the outer linings of the offense, Conklin could do all manner of things with the other nine in stuffing Bethune's run game last week. Wagner's three best backs averaged a pedestrian 3.5 yards per carry last week against a Georgetown defense that lacked a Patrick Ewing or Michael Graham anywhere.
Wagner won't be able to run. They shouldn't be able to throw on FIU's secondary or have the time to throw.
When FIU coach Ron Turner talked about getting more running backs involved, that's a sign he feels pretty good about this game. Turner, like most coaches, tends to be risk averse. In a must win game, he wouldn't give Anthon Samuel his first post-concussion game action at FIU or Alfonso Randolph his first base offense snaps after last year's knee injury unless he felt Snuggie secure about his chances.
Georgetown didn't run on Wagner. FIU better. If you can't run on Wagner, how do you expect to run on Alabama-Birmingham or Rice? And if you can't run, that drops a Sub Zero full of pressure on the back of freshman quarterback Alex McGough or junior E.J. Hilliard each week.
Either Richard Leonard gets a return touchdown or FIU gets prime field position from Wagner avoiding him.
FIU scheduled Wagner for a reason. Panthers get what they want and what they need, 31-9.
That's the opinion of one man descended from a former slave and the disowned Irish woman who married the former slave. I could be wrong.