Preview: FIU sees chance to measure progress in season opener vs. Indiana
MIAMI (AP) — When FIU coach Butch Davis looks at Indiana, he doesn’t see a team that struggled in the Big Ten last season or one that might be in some disarray following the suspension of leading rusher Morgan Ellison.
He sees a team that might be on the brink of breaking out.
And that’s one of many reasons why FIU is pointing to Indiana as a serious measuring-stick game when the teams meet on Saturday night in Miami to open their seasons. FIU was 8-5 and went to a bowl in Davis’ debut year at the school last season, while Indiana finished 5-7 and missed the postseason.
Davis doesn’t want his team fooled by reading anything into just that.
“You can tell, Indiana, they’ve got stability in the coaching staff,” Davis said. “They’re not like us in Year 2. They’re not trying to rebuild a program. They’ve had opportunities to have several recruiting classes and you watch the film — I mean, they were right on the cusp against some of the elite teams in the Big Ten.”
Of Indiana’s seven losses a year ago, four were by eight points or less. Not having Ellison, who led Indiana with more than 700 rushing yards last season and is now out indefinitely for undisclosed reasons, will hurt. But his absence may simply mean that the Hoosiers will rely more on quarterback Peyton Ramsey — who completed a school-record 65 percent of his passes last season.
Indiana coach Tom Allen said he is seeing the offense rally around Ramsey.
“Now they have to go out and execute on game day,” Allen said. “That’s obviously what matters most. That’s what everything you do is built around. That kind of sticks out to me.”
Like Davis does with the Hoosiers, Allen gave high marks to what he’s seen from the Panthers on film.
“Coach Davis obviously won everywhere he’s been, recruits really well,” Allen said. “They have some new faces we haven’t seen yet play. They’ll be good players. The last two times we played them, we’ve trailed going into the fourth quarter. That was before I got here, then the year I was here. It will be a dogfight.”
Indiana leads 2-0, winning the last meeting 34-13 on Sept. 1, 2016 — a game where the Hoosiers trailed 13-12 going into the final quarter. The teams signed a four-year deal that started in 2015, but last year’s game was cancelled because of Hurricane Irma and the effects the storm had on the Miami area. It has been rescheduled, with FIU going to Indiana in 2024.
Summer is still going strong in the Miami area, and when visitors arrive at this time of year FIU tends to reap the benefits of being more used to the often-extreme heat and humidity. But the Hoosiers caught a break of sorts as they went through final preparations for this game, with very hot and muggy conditions hitting Indiana earlier in the week.
Allen is an Indiana native, but this matchup will also be a homecoming of sorts for him — he started his coaching career at two high schools in Florida and has also worked at South Florida. The Hoosiers also have 24 players on their roster from the Sunshine State. FIU does not have any players listing Indiana as their home state.
FIU is 0-10 against current members of the Big Ten in football — besides the two Indiana losses, the Panthers have gone 0-4 against Maryland, 0-2 against Rutgers, and 0-1 against both Penn State and Iowa. Against Power Five conferences, the Panthers have a 1-27 record. The lone win came in 2011 when FIU topped Louisville.
FIU is 3-12 all-time in season openers, not counting a win in 2004 that was later vacated by the NCAA. Indiana is 79-44-7 in known opening games. The Hoosiers started a team in 1885, though there are no records of any games being played before 1887. Indiana lost its opener last season to Ohio State, and hasn’t started 0-1 in consecutive years since doing so in 2000 and 2001.