#91 Florida International Football Preview

Florida International Golden Panthers

Overall rank: #91
#2 Sun Belt Conference

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2010 Record: (7-6, 6-2)
20010 Bowl: Little Caesars Bowl vs. Toledo (34-32 W)
Coach: Mario Cristobal (16-33 at FIU, 16-33 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Scott Satterfield
Defensive Coordinator: Todd Orlando

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Darriet Perry, RB, 839 yards
Passing: Wesley Carroll, QB, 2,623 yards
Receiving: T.Y. Hilton, WR, 848 yards
Tackles: Jonathan Cyprien, SS, 113
Sacks: Tourek Williams, DE, 6
Interceptions: Junior Mertile, CB, 3

Other Key Returnees: RB Darian Mallary, RT Rupert Bryan, TE Jonathan Faucher, LB Winston Fraser, LB Kenny Dillard, DT Joshua Forney

Key Losses: C Brad Serini, LG Cedric Mack, DL Jarvis Wilson, LB Toronto Smith, S Anthony Gaitor

Coach Mario Cristobal has done a tremendous job in taking the Golden Panther program from being winless, battling NCAA sanctions and the death of Kendall Perry in an on-campus stabbing to a bowl game and a piece of the Sun Belt Championship in 2010. The question is will FIU be able to keep Cristobal from going to a bigger program if he posts another strong season in 2011?

Quarterback Wesley Carroll and a deep cast of playmakers should make the Golden Panthers a formidable offensive threat in 2011 no matter who they play. Carroll completed 61.6 percent of his passes in 2010 and also had a pass efficiency rating of 128.4, which is very impressive. At receiver it starts with T.Y. Hilton. The all everything receiver and return specialist is the reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year and is a preseason favorite to repeat. On defense, Jonathan Cyprien leads an experienced secondary, which should buy time for the defensive line and line backing corps to gain confidence early in the season. Other key players to watch for defensively include Tourek Williams and Josh Fourney, whose ability to control the line of scrimmage was impressive during spring practice and should give defensive coordinator Todd Orlando plenty of options this fall scheme wise.

The coming together of the offensive line will be crucial since Florida International is replacing all-Sun Belt Conference center Brad Serini. Sophomore Cedrick Davis will be counted on heavily to replace Serini right out of the gates. Also, the kicking game is a concern as punter Josh Brisk had just a 31.0 yard net average and teams were very successful in getting solid returns against the Golden Panthers. Moreover, on defense, the question remains whether or not Florida International will be able to create as many turnovers without Anthony Gaitor, match their 33 sacks from a year ago and also hold teams to 35 percent on third down conversions.  The ability to get sacks and create turnovers to set up great field position for the offense will be very important to the Golden Panthers quest for another Sun Belt Conference Championship.

The Bottom Line:
The out of conference schedule has more balance to it. The season opener at home against North Texas will be important for starting out conference play on the right foot. The road trip to Louisville and a home match up against the University of Central Florida will be difficult, but manageable, if the Golden Panthers can play to their maximum capabilities. Conference wise getting Troy at home will be very important after going on the road last year and beating the Trojans 52-35. A swing road game in conference play could be the finale at Middle Tennessee State, which is not the easiest place to play in the conference as the Blue Raiders have given BCS conference schools fits over the years at home.  With a less daunting schedule, the Golden Panthers should be poised to secure their second winning season and bowl bid in their young program’s history.

Projected Bowl: New Orleans Bowl

2010 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 187.5 (27th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 207.5 (70, 6)
Total Offense: 395.1 (46, 3)
Scoring Offense: 28.8 (51, 3)
Rushing Defense: 168.7 (77, 4)
Pass Defense: 200.2 (32, 3)
Total Defense: 368.9 (61, 1)
Scoring Defense: 27.3 (65, 1)
Turnover Margin: 0.31 (36, 1)
Sacks: 2.54 (22, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 1.54 (41, 1)

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