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Wagner the Dog

The depth chart for this week's game against Wagner looks the same as last week's. Which means it's about as worthless as a tailor in a nudist colony.

It still has junior E.J. Hilliard at quarterback over freshman Alex McGough. It also has freshman Alex Gardner third behind junior Lamarq Caldwell and redshirt junior Shane Coleman. Coleman didn't have a carry while Gardner led the team in carries and yards. Clearly, especially against Wagner, start McGough and Gardner just to see what they can do from the start.

And, I hear Monday, McGough took the lead role in workouts. 

FIU's defense ranks second in sacks (six, behind Baylor's eight) and fifth in tackles for loss (10, behind Baylor and TCU's 13, each). Richard Leonard leads the nation in total return yards, 208, and is fifth in punt return average (29.6 yards per return). It bears repeating -- FIU had only five punt or kickoff returns that exceeded 29 yards at all in 2013. Two of those were punt returns against Bethune-Cookman, so perhaps punt coverage stands as Bethune's main special teams' bete noire.

Hilliard did scramble for FIU's only third down conversion. Last year's worst third down team -- second worst since 1997 according to the Associated Press' Tim Reynolds -- again is last so far: one of 16. But three of five on fourth down, so...

RUNNING THE SPREAD

Few games this week scare the sports books the way Wagner-FIU does. Don't be surprised if a few books stay away from this game like it needs to go to the clinic.

Lower rank FBS team that just lost to an FCS team at home playing an FCS team. Wagner's coming off 3-7, probably a mediocre FCS team at best, but you can bet some books took a hit when Wagner played FAU close two years ago. The FBS team either will be starting a true freshman quarterback in his second college game or starting the junior who got yanked one quarter into the season opener. Wagner's been a dependable whipping boy for FBS schools, yet played FAU tough two years ago. Two years ago, different players, different school, still it's another reason this game's scarier than an IRS vampire to the books.

Also, they took a bit of a hit last week on FIU. The Panthers opened as a 1-point favorite last week. Betting on Bethune moved the line all the way to FIU being a 3-point underdog by late Thursday. That being the line at kickoff says the early betting was heavily Bethune with the later betting split. FIU covered the final spread, losing by only two. But everybody who got down on Bethune before the line swung to Wildcats by 2 collected.

The game will be on the Conference USA Digital Network. The next game on the American Sports Network, I recommend muting the TV and putting on Mike Levine and Pete Pelegrin. It'll get weeks to get Saturday's TV game commentary infection out of my TiVo.

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