Marc Lebryk, USA Today

FIU will be a dangerous opener in Miami

Get some quick facts on Florida International, Indiana's opening opponent next Thursday night. Plus watch what Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson has to say about the challenge.

Don't look now but Indiana's season opener in football is just a week away. The Hoosiers open the year on the road next Thursday night in Miami against Florida International.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET and ESPNU will have the broadcast.

This a return match-up from last season when the Hoosiers prevailed September 12th in Bloomington, 36-22.

That final score was deceiving because with four minutes left the visiting Panthers were two yards from tying the game at 29 when a turnover decided the game. On fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line, freshman corner Jameel Cook Jr. intercepted a Alex McGough pass and returned it 96 yards for a touchdown.

"We were in a tough game last year and very fortunate to win it," Wilson said at Big Ten Media Day. "They (FIU) know it.  I am sure it is a game that they have talked a lot about."

Both teams were nearly even on first downs and total offense. The difference was Indiana turned three FIU turnovers into 20 points.

The Hoosiers are likely to go with a newcomer at quarterback in junior college transfer Richard Lagow and this is the first game under new defensive coordinator Tom Allen.

"We're going to play with not as much experience at quarterback, however that plays out," Wilson said. "The first time with a new defense, under fire, making adjustments. Last year was a dogfight and now we're going to their place."

Former Illinois head coach and NFL coaching veteran Ron Turner is headed into his fourth year at Florida International. The program has progressed under Turner, moving from a 1-11 season his first year to a 5-7 mark in 2015.

One more win this season can get the Conference USA team into a bowl and Panther fans are pointing to Thursday as a big opportunity to help make that a reality.

McGough is back at quarterback and this time gets the more friendly confines of FIU Stadium. He completed 21-for-37 for 249 yards including three touchdowns in the Indiana game. 

Top running back Alex Gardner also returns along with McGough's top receiver targets from last season, wideout Thomas Owens and tight end Jonnu Smith. Gardner is a versatile back who ran for 780 yards last season while catching 60 passes for 442 yards.

There are questions on the offensive line despite the return of all-conference center Michael Montero. 

Defense is the big  issue this year for Panthers as the team lost key guys and seemed to really collapse late in the season. FIU ended the year with a 52-0 loss followed by a Marshall and a 63-7 home defeat against Western Kentucky, a team that Indiana beat in 2015.

Indiana's roster includes 13 players from the state of Florida, so families and friends of players should help put a decent sized IU contingent into the stands.

Safety Tony Fields is from Tallahassee and a former high school teammate plays for FIU.

"I'm going to have a lot of family members there and a lot of my teammates are from Florida," Fields said. "They have a lot of great athletes. Going to be a great challenge."

Quick facts on FIU

  • Athlon Sports predicts the Panthers to finish sixth in the East division of C-USA.
  • A member of Conference USA, the Panthers have gone 3-5 in the league the past two seasons.
  • FIU Stadium has a capacity of 20,000
  • Defensively the top player for the Panthers is linebacker Deonte Wilson
  • FIU has made two bowl games in its history

Video

Kevin Wilson talks about the opener at Big Ten Media Day:


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