Florida International Golden Panthers (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) at Louisville Cardinals (1-0 SU, 0-1 ATS), Friday September 9th, 2011. 7:00PM EST, College Football Week 2
Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium Louisville, Kentucky
By Jay Horne, College Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: FIU +4.5/Lou -4.5
Over/Under Total: TBA
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The Louisville Cardinals had somewhat of a lackluster performance last week in their season opener when they just narrowly skated by Murray State by a score of 21-9. The Cardinals were favored by nearly 30 points in their meeting with Murray State, but gave up 4 turnovers and were also held scoreless the entire 2nd half. Louisville was expected to be an improved team this season in Coach Charlie Strongs 2nd season, but now more questions linger after such a disappointing start to the season against an inferior opponent like Murray State. This week the Cardinals will get a chance to improve when they take the national spotlight in a Friday Night showdown when they host the Florida International Golden Panthers.
Florida International started off their season last week against inner conference foe North Texas from the Sun Belt Conference. The Golden Panthers blew the doors off the Mean Green 41-16. The win marked the first opening win for Florida International dating back to the 2004 season. In fact, last season Florida International won a share of the Sun Belt Championship in their biggest season in school history. The Golden Panthers will now take the trip to Louisville in hopes to pull an upset and continue their improvements in 2011.
The Golden Panthers are a solid team on both sides of the ball returning 16 starters from their 2010 campaign. The offense is led by senior WR T.Y Hilton. Hilton was the 2010 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year. Hilton finished the season with over 2,000 all-purpose yards and it is easy to say he is a threat any time he touches the football. Hilton racked up 7 catches for 132 yards in last weeks win while adding 49 yards rushing on two carries. Louisville will definitely have to keep their defense on alert to where Hilton lines up at all times this Friday.
The remainder of the Golden Panthers offense is pretty solid as well. Florida International does not have any huge playmakers outside of Hilton, but they do have some guys that can get the job done. QB Wesley Carroll has battled inconsistency issues throughout his career, but is looking for a better senior season. Carroll completed 16 of 22 passing last week for 193 yards with 1 touchdown and 0 picks. Additionally, running back Darriet Perry aided the offense with an additional 94 yards rushing on the ground. If the Panthers can get some similar balanced production of offense while avoiding the ever dreaded turnovers, they could have a shot at the upset.
Louisville as stated before did not impress anyone last week. That could be due to all the new faces on the offensive side of the ball. The Cardinals had to replace a ton of talent on the offensive side of the ball this season including 4 of 5 starting offensive lineman. QB Will Stein took over the starting job behind center despite limited field experience.
Last week, Stein completed 17 of 32 passes for 226 yards with 2 touchdowns and 0 picks. A lot of pressure will fall on Stein this season because the Cardinals are still in search of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. Both running backs Victor Anderson and Jeremy Wright have yet to prove they can be a homerun threat out of the back field. Furthermore, the offense returns WR Josh Bellamy who only posted 401 receiving yards in 2010. Outside of Bellamy, the receiving core is hoping some young talent can step up to be that big play threat. Until someone does step up to be that big play threat, Stein will have to do his best to spread the ball around and move down the field through the passing game.
Even if the offense continues to sputter, luckily the Cardinals still have a solid defense to fall back on. Coach Charlie Strong earned his reputation by building strong defenses in the SEC which is considered the pinnacle conference in college football. The Cardinals only gave up 291 yards last week and they are a disciplined bunch that does not make many mistakes. If they can keep Florida International from making big plays, the Cardinals still should be in good shape to improve to 2-0.
Jays Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I really like this Florida International team to pull off the mild upset here. Louisville has a long way to go on the offensive side of the ball and I think they struggle heavily again. Florida International wins this game straight up. Take FIU +4.5.
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