The schedule for Butch Davis’ first season as FIU football coach, announced Thursday, gives the Panthers a shot at a bowl-level bounce after five consecutive losing seasons.
Only one Power Five conference team, perennial Big Ten also-ran Indiana, dots the schedule. Instead of another Power Five team, as was the case in 2016, FIU returned to its custom of buying an FCS whipping boy. That’ll be Alcorn State in 2017 cast in the role played previously by Wagner and North Carolina Central.
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That Sept. 9 home game follows a Sept. 2 season-opening home game against UCF, which has outscored FIU 91-14 in the last two games at FIU Stadium. FIU’s fourth non-conference game, Oct. 14 against Tulane, comes a week before their bye.
Conference USA play starts on Sept. 23 at Rice. FIU gets two of the three projected CUSA East Division contenders -- Middle Tennessee State, Western Kentucky, Old Dominion -- at home. The Shula Bowl will be Nov. 18 at Florida Atlantic, where Lane Kiffin takes over as head coach.
As far as Davis’ first FIU recruiting class, he appears to have hung onto the commitment from Western defensive end Kevin Oliver, rated at three stars by 247sports.com. Oliver also received an offer from Purdue and North Carolina State among Power Five conferences.
Former FIU tight end Jonnu Smith seems to be impressing some folks up in Mobile at the Senior Bowl.
Sept. 2: UCF
Sept. 9: Alcorn State
Sept. 16: at Indiana
Sept. 23: at Rice
Sept. 30: Charlotte
Oct. 7: at Middle Tennessee
Oct. 14: Tulane
Oct. 28: Marshall
Nov. 4: Texas-San Antonio
Nov. 11: Old Dominion
Nov. 18: at FAU
Nov. 25: Western Kentucky