David J. Neal breaks down the Florida International University football team’s schedule.
Sept. 3: @ Central Florida, 6 p.m.
Three of UCF’s nine returning starters make the defensive line the Knights’ strength. A home season opener at night with too much UCF defensive line means too little from FIU until too late. UCF 21, FIU 10.
Sept. 12: @ Indiana, 8 p.m.
FIU’s speed will shock IU early. The Hoosiers rarely play with the beefy physicality associated with the Big Ten, but again claim they will this year. Yeah, OK, we’ll cautiously predict a sequel to last year’s FIU loss to Pitt. Indiana 34, FIU 24.
Sept. 19: North Carolina Central, 6 p.m.
This year’s FCS schedule-filler is no Bethune-Cookman — on the field or, unfortunately for FIU, in the stands. FIU 38, NCC 10.
Sept. 26: @ Louisiana Tech, 2:30 p.m.
Possibly Conference USA’s best defense and best running back (Kenneth Dixon) add a transfer quarterback from Florida (Jeff Driskel). In Ruston. Ruh-roh. Rough. La Tech 37, FIU 10.
Oct. 3: @ UMass, TBD
Another rerun? What is this, ESPN Classic? 2015 UMass=2014 Old Dominion? In Season 2 under Mark Whipple, UMass put up 30.1 points per game in QB Blake Frohnapfel’s 10 starts and return 10 starters. The Minutemen need help on defense. FIU 38, UMass 31.
Oct. 10: UTEP, Noon
Noon start, so the small gathering attending will less “rattle The Cage” than rattle around The Cage. Both teams want to do the old run-to-set-up-the-pass thing. What they both possess that’s good, FIU possesses the better. FIU 20, UTEP 17.
Oct. 17: @ Middle Tennessee, TBD
Middle missed being bowl happy last year by the size of an almost-magical FIU comeback from 21-3 down to a 38-28 victory. The rematch up in the Nashville metro area features similar rosters. The magic evens out. Middle 30, FIU 24.
Oct. 24: Old Dominion, 6 p.m.
ODU’s shifting from the program’s only quarterback, Taylor Heinicke, to redshirt freshman Shuler Bentley. Bentley has a lot of offensive help. He’s still young and the so-called defense remains leaky. FIU 40, ODU 24.
Oct. 31: @ FAU, 3:30 p.m.
Next year, the Shula Bowl could decide the Conference USA title. This year, only a Happy Halloween is at stake. It will be FAU feeling like they got a rock instead of candy after FIU passes — that’s right, passes — its way to victory. FIU 31, FAU 21.
Nov. 7 : Charlotte, Noon
The 49ers revived football in 2013. A 5-6 record against vs. FCS and Division II opponents in 2014. Zero FBS opponents ever. At The Cage. A loss here and human resources should be drowning in resignations Monday morning. FIU 42, Charlotte 10.
Nov. 14: @ Marshall, TBD
Rakeem Cato’s pitching a hitch (and go) in the CFL. Enormous running back Devon Johnson, the one-man Thundering Herd who trampled FIU, returns. You can see FIU putting up more than in last year’s 45-13 loss. If you can see them putting up enough, stylish corrective lenses are available. Marshall 28, FIU 16.
Nov. 21: Western Kentucky, TBD
FIU’s feared pass rush and secondary trying to stop the Western’s Brohmbadiers, who keep the ball in the air like they just don’t care. But it’s also a tired FIU team at the end of a bye-less season. The Panthers slow the Hilltoppers down. They just can’t slow them to FIU’s pace. WKU 31, FIU 21.