Florida International jumped ship from the Sun Belt Conference to Conference-USA in an attempt to start anew. Things aren’t going great for the Golden Panthers so far.
With the exception of a standout season in 2010 that saw FIU tie for first place in the Sun Belt, the football program hasn’t been very competitive. That season was the only time the team even cracked the top-three in the conference since it joined in 2005.
The Golden Panthers’ debut season in C-USA hasn’t been much different. Through the first seven games of the season, FIU has only claimed a single win and has been shut out twice. That lone win was a one-point victory over C-USA foe Southern Miss—a team that hasn’t won a game since Christmas Eve 2011.
FIU’s offense returned a handful of key players this season. The sophomore duo of Jake Medlock and E.J. Hilliard are back at quarterback. Downfield they have fellow sophomore T.J. Lowder, who has stepped up as a receiver. Lowder has 218 receiving yards this season, which is a huge step up from his 72 yards last season.
The young offense hasn’t quite clicked, though. The Golden Panthers are averaging a mere 11.1 points per game this season, which is among the worst in the Football Bowl Subdivision. They’re scraping the bottom in passing and rushing yards, too. FIU is ranked 114th and 121st, respectively.
The lowlight of FIU’s offense is likely the ground game, which only averages 75 yards a game. The rushing corps returns six players that made up only 305 of the team’s 1,744 rushing yards in 2012. With over half the season out of the way, the Golden Panthers have run for a mere 518 yards—meaning they’re not even on pace to match half the rushing yards they had last season.
Inexperience within FIU’s football program plagues both sides of the ball. In 2012, the Golden Panthers were one of four teams in FBS to return 30 or more seniors. They’re playing without 27 of those players this season. From top to bottom, FIU’s 2013 squad has a total of 146 career starts.
The defense returned 13 players from 2012 with a total of 91 career starts. That lack of experience is a major contributing factor to FIU allowing an average of just over 37 points per game.
FIU has been heading down hill since 2011. After going 8-4, the Golden Panthers lost to C-USA’s own Marshall 20-10 in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl. They followed that up with only three wins in 2012.
The Golden Panthers are in a big rebuilding stage on and off the field, though. In addition to all the new faces on the team, FIU is one of 11 programs in the nation to hire a new staff this season.