The C-USA is a forgotten conference. Other mid-majors like the MAC have gotten more play on prime-time TV thanks to excellent, colorful programs like WMU and Northern Illinois. The Mountain West is “prime time” or at least dinner-time watchable for a majority of Americans. But the Conference USA ledger gets lost in the crush of early-Saturday results from eastern teams.
That’s too bad, since the league does have at least one very good team in Florida Atlantic, and only a few true patsies like Charlotte and Rice. Western Kentucky, facing a tough Florida International side this Friday, just become bowl-eligible by beating Middle Tennessee in overtime, and are trying to finish with a winning 7-5 record.
As for FIU, the Golden Panthers’ motivation is a little more vague. The squad is already bowl-eligible yet out of the conference race, and have followed a depressing upset-loss to Old Dominion with a total collapse at FAU. But a 12/2 make-up game with UMass promises hope of a winning regular season even if the 6-4 Panthers fumble this weekend.
The odds are tight, and each team must look to have a better day on defense.
Who: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at Florida International Golden Panthers
When: Friday, November 24th, 7 PM EST
Where: FIU Stadium, Miami, FL
Lines: WKU (-2.5) at FIU (+2.5) / O/U Total (55)
WKU has an average, unexciting defense and little-to-no running game in crucial situations. They’re 6-5 for a single reason only…their quarterback. 6’4″ senior Mike White has held up the entire Hilltop almost on his own, passing for 3471 yards and 22 touchdowns. The ground game is averaging a putrid 2.2 ypc, but has at least managed to punch the ball into the end zone 15 times.
If the Hilltoppers could run block, their offense would be dynamite. There wasn’t a Blue Raider on heaven or earth who could stop White’s passes to Lucky Jackson and Nicarius Fant last week, as he passed for almost 500 yards. Against good defenses, Western Kentucky is out-powered and penetrated up the middle.
The Golden Panthers do not qualify as having a special defense. They did hold Tulane to just 10 points in their most impressive performance of the season back in October. But last week the ‘Cats allowed Nathan Singletary and the FAU backfield to run all over them, surrendering almost 600 yards.
FIU will likely need an explosion of offense to cover the spread, and Alex McGough does not lead an explosive offense. Only 13 touchdown passes on the season for McGough, plus a pedestrian running game, tell us that this is not an impossible unit to stop at their own venue. The 23-10 triumph over Tulane came in Miami…but so did the humiliating defeat to Old Dominion.
The Panthers struggle against the run, which doesn’t mean they won’t contain WKU up the middle. But it does mean that the visitors will be able to run more than they’re accustomed to…and that means better protection for their superior QB.
Take the Hilltoppers to cover (-2.5) points.