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Previewing the FIU Game and the Spread

We are a quarter of the way through the season, and to this point, the CARDS are unbeaten. Going into game 4, we will do this again. I have been previewing the games and discussing advantages or disadvantages in multiple areas when it comes to our upcoming opponents. This week, we look at Florida International. The coaching staff did a good job of scheduling games that we can’t help but get up for. Last year, as we all know, T.Y. Hilton burned us deep on two straight drives to help FIU take down the CARDS. This is certainly in the back of everyone’s minds, and that, combined with the 2nd half of the UNC game, should set these guys off big time.

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Again, here is how this works.

At the end of each section, I rate the advantage or disadvantage on a 5 point scale. -2, -1, Even, +1, or +2. 2 point advantages are reserved for very big advantages or disadvantages. Let’s begin.

  1. Offensive Line Play -- Looking at this opponent, their offensive line comes in with a lot of experience. All but one of their O-Linemen is a Senior, and the Right Guard, Delsoin, is a Redshirt Sophomore. This could make it a little more difficult to get to the quarterback, but don’t expect FIU to be able to move the ball extremely effectively on the ground. They were able to run for 152 yards against Central Florida, but don’t I expect to see them to break 100 yards with their starting RB likely out. I’d expect the trend of keeping the opponent under 100 yards and winning the running game battle convincingly to continue. CARDS +2
  2. The Run Game -- Speaking of the running game, as I just stated, this weekend we will see a run game that will either make a team one dimensional or that will open up the pass. If Rhodes does not play this week, they will be at a pretty hefty disadvantage. Their likely starter, of course, is Darian Mallery, brother of Mr. President. This will be an interesting position to watch. I don’t see them able to move the ball too effectively on the ground, so the advantage will go to the CARDS. UofL did rush for 183 yards last week, most in the first half and held UNC to 47 yards in the game. Yeah, 47 yards. Also, I still have not heard anything definite, but we could see our first Big Brown Truck sighting this week. Let me know if anyone knows anything more on this point. CARDS +2
  3. Special Teams -- This is an FIU punting game that is very experienced this season. Not because they want to be, they punted 10 times in one game this season. They have punted 20 times total this season. A decent punter, Jack “Peter” Griffen has averaged just over 40 yards per kick, so expect them to get about that when they do punt. And expect them to punt often. Their kicking game is not great either, having gone 2-5 with one of those 3 misses being blocked by Duke. We could see the President or Calvin or Bushell get around the edge and bring one back in this game. And the cheerleaders at FIU are much better looking than the toothless mountaineer-leaders, so maybe we could blow some kisses for a good reason this week. Also, if Gaines gets his chance returning a punt, we could see some real magic. CARDS +1
  4. Impact of "New" Players – If Dominique Brown plays this week, look for him to be the biggest new impact player of the week. He could really turn it loose. But if he doesn’t play, we may be waiting until Pitt to unleash that guy. Also, here’s one some people may think is a new player, DeVante Parker. We know he isn’t new, but look for him to be the feature target this week, along with Chuck Gaines. On the other side of the ball, it has to be the Running Back, Darrian Mallery. He HAS to have a good game here to be able to open up the passing game and move the ball anywhere near effectively against the CARDS. I don’t see this happening, & without T.Y. Hilton, look for UofL to dominate. CARDS +2
  5. Coaching – Coach Mario Cristobal is in his 6th season at the helm of the Panthers. He took them on a 15-7 mark over the last 22 games leading up to the 2012 season. However, look for him to be a bit overmatched in this one. The CSX (Coach Strong X-press) is still rolling. I would expect to see a few new plays and blitz schemes that could really impress a few people on defense. They have a magnifying glass on them this week as they face an opponent that appears to be over-matched. I expect to be impressed. Look for the CARDS to try to get to the Quarterback often and make them one dimensional. This is why I see the CARDS as having an advantage when it comes to coaching. +2
  6. Depth – FIU is full of Senior starters. With 30 seniors, FIU is one of only 4 schools that entered the season with 30 or more Seniors on the team. Also, 42 players have accounted for a combined 530 starts. That is an average of more than 12.5 starts per player. These guys have a lot of guys who have started a lot of games. The CARDS don't have quite as many Juniors and Seniors as FIU, but they do have a lot of second and third year starters who will be starting on Saturday night. The most important starter is arguably Miami Norland product TD Bridgewater. As Eddie George said, he may be young, but he plays like he is 30. He makes great decisions and studies the game so hard. A couple more people may have him on their ballots at the end of this one. Still, both teams are very deep with experience. This one is a push. Even
  7. Defensive Pressure – This season, Tourek Williams has 4.5 tackles for a loss. He also leads the Defensive line in career starts at 29. He is experienced. Look for him to be the one to get around the edge and pressure Bridgewater. Also, the FIU defense has one interception in each of the last 11 games. Could this be the week to see TD though his first INT? I think that is unlikely, but they do know how to get pressure. I really expected to see a lot more effective Blitzing from the CARDS, as I expect the defensive playbook to be expanded. Also, look for QB Medlock to be uncomfortable under the pressure, which hurries him into a few ill advised passes into the hands of Bushell or Pryor. I feel the Defensive pressure will be handled fairly well from the Cards O-Line, with a couple of sacks coming from the other side. Expect the CARDS to win the turn over battle. This happens by getting to the quarter back early and often. CARDS +1
  8. Expectations – The CARDS have a history of playing well on the road while on The CSX. Don’t expect that to change this week. I know a lot of people are looking at this week as an opportunity to see the Defense operate at a high level like the offense has. People are looking to see if TD Bridgewater can perform at the same high level as he has been through three weeks. Also, ranked 18th and 20th, expectations are very high going into this one. People want to see the CARDS able to put together 4 quarters of football. I expect to see 3 good quarters and one with Sunny Stein where he “manages the game” allowing a score in garbage time. It won’t take much to get these guys focused for this week’s after a nearly blowing a big lead last week AND going into Miami to play a team they lost to last year. Don’t expect the CARDS expectations to get into their heads. CARDS +2
  9. Position Edges -- TD Bridgewater is a clear advantage over Medlock. Our running backs should have a clear advantage over theirs as well. Our Receivers are a bit more sure-handed than theirs’, Their O-Line is a little bit better than ours at run blocking, but about the same on pass blocking. The one to watch is the Defensive Line. I expect to see a big game from the CARDS this week, so ours should be better than theirs. Our secondary is also an edge over theirs. And their Special Teams is about the same as ours if not worse. All this being said, CARDS have a big advantage. +2
  10. Offensive Improvement – I am going to defer this one and talk about Defensive Improvement. Look for the defense to finally be up to what people have been looking for them to be from the beginning of the season. The Panthers will be extremely overmatched and they will do their best to make FIU as one dimensional as possible. Expect to see a few sacks and a couple of interceptions, including one from President Johnson. Also, Bridgewater keeps it going, throws 22 of 26 for 322 and 2TDs. Edge CARDS. +2

As of Friday night, I have seen the CARDS as a 13.5-14 point favorite. I have them as a 16 point favorite. I’ll take it. I expect for it to be close to that line for a while, but I expect the CARDS to beat the spread again. I see FIU’s offense moving the ball a little bit early, but having trouble putting up points. They won’t really look healthy until midway through the 4th quarter. Meanwhile, the CARDS will move the ball efficiently and should look close to the way they did in the first half against UNC during the first half of this one. One more point of interest, the CARDS have shut out opponents in the first quarter of each game this season, outscoring the opponent 34-0 in the first quarer. We will see if this continues this week. I like the CARDS to roll to their 1st 4-0 start since 2006 with a victory over FIU. OSM Pick: 45-20

I will be watching this one on the couch in the same Jersey, shorts, and socks this week. If it ain’t broke… Thanks to everyone last week who watched the game and was there with me on the Cardinal Pig thread through good times and through bad. It was nice to have someone there with me. It was fun. Kind of. This one should be more fun and less of a heart-attack to watch.

Beat Kentucky!!!

Then Beat the Bears!!!

Then Beat the Tar Heels!!!

Then Beat FIU!!! Go CARDS!!!

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