Florida International U

This is what is at stake Saturday for the Florida Panthers against Old Dominion

The FIU Panthers’ next football opponent might as well be called Old & Injured Dominion.

FIU is off to a disappointing start at 4-4 overall and 2-3 in Conference USA. But Old Dominion (1-7, 0-4) has it much worse.

“We’ve got 28 guys injured right now, which is the most we’ve ever had,” Old Dominion coach Bobby Wilder said. “We’ve got 10 players out, 12 others that I’m hopeful can play with a good week of treatments and six guys who are clearly playing hurt.”

Kickoff on Saturday is set for noon in a game FIU badly needs in its long-shot bid to claim its first C-USA East Division title.

After winning a program-record nine games against just four losses under coach Butch Davis last season, FIU now trails 4-1 Western Kentucky, 3-1 Marshall, 3-1 Florida Atlantic and 2-2 Middle Tennessee in the East Division.

FIU is coming off a disastrous 50-17 loss at Middle Tennessee this past Saturday that included the worst half of football the Panthers have played since Davis arrived for the 2017 season. Specifically, FIU got outscored 36-0 in the second half on Saturday.

“A 45-mph wind and a monsoon,” Davis said in describing tthe third-quarter conditions in that game. “When you play in that kind of environment, you can’t turn the ball over.”

FIU lost four fumbles in that game. However, to be fair, Middle Tennessee played in the same conditions and suffered no turnovers. Also, two of FIU’s turnovers occurred in the first half, when the weather was better.

This week, however, the Panthers are favored by 17 points against an ODU team FIU beat 28-20 on the road last season.

FIU is 4-1 at home this season, and the weather is a concern for ODU, especially for a noon start.

“It’s going to be hot and humid,” Wilder said. “We’ll have to do a really good job of prepping for that.”

FIU should not be lacking for motivation as this will be its last game on its campus this season.

That means one more true home game for seniors such as running back Anthony Jones, who ranks seventh in the league with 599 rushing yards and tied for second with seven rushing touchdowns.

Jones has been especially hot the past four games, rushing for 421 yards, five touchdowns and a 5.8 average during that span, helping FIU to a 3-1 record.

“It’s going to mean a lot, playing here in my hometown and in my last game in this stadium,” Jones said. “I might be a little emotional.”

Jones said he will graduate in December with a degree in sports management.

“That’s something I wanted to do,” Jones said. “I want to play [pro ball], but I want to walk out of here with a degree, too.”

THIS AND THAT

ODU beat Virginia Tech last year and led Virginia at halftime this year. But ODU has not won a game since August, when it beat an FCS team, Norfolk State 24-21. This past Saturday, ODU got blown out at home in a 41-3 loss to Florida Atlantic.

Among ODU’s most frustrating defeats this year was a 24-21 home loss to East Carolina, a team that entered that week having lost 10 straight road games.

ODU also lost 31-17 to Virginia Tech. But ODU trailed by just one touchdown in the fourth quarter of that game.

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