Let me just start with the good news: T.Y. Hilton plays for the Indianapolis Colts. He took his 36 career touchdowns as well as the 201 yards receiving he picked up against us last season with him. Hilton was a nightmare last year and FIU is still looking for guys to replace his production as well as the attention he demanded from defenses.
Spoiler alert: FIU runs a spread offense. The good thing for Vance Bedford and his defensive unit is that they don't run a hurry-up like we've seen so much of this year. FIU spreads the field and operates pretty exclusively out of the shotgun, but they have a very balanced attack. Running backs Kedrick Rhodes and Darian Mallary split carries like Jeremy Wright and Senorise Perry, with Rhodes as the starter. Rhodes is easily the feature player of this offense and the coaching staff does a good job at getting the ball in his hands. He had a monster game against an improved Duke team in which he took the second play of the season for a 64-yard catch and run. He finished the game with 245 yards on 32 touches. Mallary and Rhodes are used in two back sets a lot and they run the spread option out of that formation. It's a new wrinkle to the offense because they have a quarterback that runs the play well and can also break free if not accounted for. Jake Medlock has done well in his first season as a full time starter and he has also had a big game this year. He put up 144 rushing yards against Akron two weeks ago. This spread is much different than what we have seen so far this year. Let's hope that our guys are ready for it.
FIU has three new starters on it's offensive line, only returning it's tackles. They have done a good job in the running game but haven't been outstanding against the pass. There have been a handful of miscommunications which is fairly normal when you have a new center. They've allowed 8 sacks this year and they haven't done too great when it comes to holding their blocks on the longer developing misdirection plays that come with the spread, like reverses and outside counter runs. Coach Strong has already said that Louisville will play it's nickel/3-3-5 package again this week so I expect to see man coverage with Hakeem Smith playing close to the line. I think the defense will try to stop the run like they have all year and take their chances with a passing game that doesn't have many big play threats.
KEY PLAYERS: RB Kedrick Rhodes, RB Darian Mallary, WR Wayne Times, QB Jake Medlock
FIU returns 10 starters from last years defense that sufficated Louisville's running game last year. They don't have the NFL talent that UNC did, but as we saw in the first half Saturday, that doesn't mean much. However, FIU ranks 82nd in total defense and honestly might be a worse tackling team than UNC. Big plays have been easy to come by this season and it really seems like the defense doesn't adapt well. Duke repeatedly threw deep posts and go routes against Sam Miller and he got beat again and again with no safety help. You think Teddy and Shawn Watson aren't dreaming of Charles Gaines running freely down the field? The run defense is still decent, though they haven't faced a "running" team so far this season. And to be frank, why run the ball when you can get the ball down the field so easily in the passing game.
FIU used a defensive touchdown and big plays on offense to win last season but I don't see either happening this year. They run a multiple defense that shifts a lot before the play. Shawn Watson hasn't let a defense dictate his playcalling yet this season and I don't see that changing Saturday. FIU leaves it's corners on an island a lot and brings it's safeties up to stuff the run. When you leave your corners out there like that it leaves you vulnerable to talented receivers. I expect Teddy to have a good game whether or not the running game is going. But if our running game can move the chains, look for the safeties to be pulled up and Gaines and company to get deep a few times.
KEY PLAYERS: DE Tourek Williams, MLB Winston Fraser, OLB Jordan Hunt, FS Jonathan Cyprien, CB Jose Cheeseborough (Real name)
- Tourek Williams is the preseason Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year.
- Jordan Hunt and Winston Fraser are probably most likely to be playing on Sundays next year.
- FIU is tied for third in the nation in touchdowns given up with 15 through 3 games.
- There are 18 players combined from Miami Norland, Miami Northwestern, and Southridge in this game.
- Louisville will be facing it's second straight team that it lost to last year.
- Darian Mallary is Andrew Johnson's older brother.
- Kedrick Rhodes missed the first two days of practice this week and didn't finish the last two games.