The Miami Hurricanes will step out of ACC play this week to take on their intra-city rivals, the Florida International Panthers. Kickoff is set for 7:00 EST on Saturday, November 23 with the Hurricanes making the short trip to the FIU Stadium in Miami. This battle over bragging rights in the city of Miami can be found on CBS Sports Network.
The Hurricanes opened the week as 20.5-point favorites, although Miami is now only favored by 19 points. The over/under for the game is set at 49 points. Be sure to check out a full list of this week’s college football odds.
Manny Diaz and company have done well to bounce back this season after starting the year 0-2. The Hurricanes have won six of their last eight games to secure a bowl spot despite the slow start. That includes three straight wins to make the Hurricanes 4-3 in conference play. If a few things break for them over the next two weeks, Miami could end up in a four-way tie atop the ACC Coastal Division. Of course, there’s nothing they can do about it during this week’s non-conference game. But the Hurricanes, fresh off last week’s convincing 52-27 win over Louisville, will want to stay sharp for what could be an important game next week against Duke.
As for the Panthers, they are hoping to get to a bowl game for the third consecutive season, which would be an amazing accomplishment for a program that has only existed since 2002. Unfortunately, FIU sits at 5-5 and needs one more win to become bowl eligible. If the Panthers can’t pull off the upset over Miami this week, their last chance will come next week against a Marshall team that will be playing for a spot in the C-USA Championship Game. That should have FIU in a state of desperation this week, hopeful that they can surprise a Miami team that could be looking past them.
There have been three previous meetings between Miami and Florida International on the football field. The first one came in 2006 when there was an infamous brawl between the teams in the middle of a 35-0 Miami win. The two teams also met last season with the Hurricanes winning 31-17 on their home field.
In their last game two weekends ago, Florida International lost 37-7 to another Sunshine State rival, Florida Atlantic. If they couldn’t handle the Owls, I don’t have high hopes for FIU being able to handle the Hurricanes. The Panthers will undoubtedly bring their best effort, but I don’t think it’ll be enough. I think Miami should eventually pull away and manage to cover the 19-point spread.
After almost a full season’s worth of quarterback problems, the Hurricanes have finally settled on freshman Jarren Williams. After some growing pains early in the season, Williams has been at his best in recent weeks. In his last game against Louisville, he completed 15 of his 22 passes for over 250 yards and six touchdowns. He was just as effective on the road against Florida State the previous week, so I’m not too worried about him handling himself in another rivalry game on the road.
Miami’s issues along the offensive line have also improved over the last few games. Williams is finally getting more time in the pocket, which has allowed the game to slow down for him. The running back tandem of DeeJay Dallas and Cam’Ron Harris were also able to run wild against Louisville. In that game, the two combined for 174 yards on just 22 carries, giving the Miami offense some much-needed balance.
While the Louisville defense is far from the best the Hurricanes have faced this year, I’m not sure the FIU defense will be much better. The likes of Tulane, Louisiana Tech, and Middle Tennessee have all scored over 40 points against the Panthers this season. The FIU defense doesn’t have the athleticism or physicality to match up against the best teams in Conference USA, so I don’t think they’ll be able to handle the Hurricanes for 60 minutes, especially if Miami can impose their will at the line of scrimmage and run the ball effectively.
On the other side of the ball, the FIU offense isn’t exactly fit for a shootout, averaging just 26 points per game this season. Keep in mind that number has been inflated a little by games against the likes of UMass, Charlotte, and UTEP. Outside of avoiding turnovers, throwing just two interceptions this year, quarterback James Morgan has had a disappointing senior season. His completion percentage has dropped below 60% and he’s failed to throw a touchdown pass in back-to-back games. That doesn’t sound like an offense that will have much success against a Miami defense that’s held five of its last eight opponents to 12 points or less.
Unless the Panthers can punch well above their weight class in a rivalry game, I don’t think they’ll be able to keep up with Miami. There’s too much of a gap in talent for FIU to make this a competitive game for four quarters. The Hurricanes shouldn’t be too tempted to look past FIU, which is why I think they’ll take care of business and have no problem covering the spread.