2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 1 - North Texas at FIU
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Sept. 1 at FIU 41 … North Texas 16
CFN Analysis: This was the defending Sun Belt champions making a statement. FIU was supposed to have a solid defense, and it did a great job keying on the North Texas ground game and applying the pressure all game long, but this game was about a near-perfect performance from the offense. Wesley Carroll was magnificent, completing 16-of-22 passes, while the combination of Darriet Perry and Kedrick Rhodes dominated on the ground. T.Y. Hilton was T.Y. Hilton with seven catches for 132 yards and a score, and 49 rushing yards, and UNT didn't have any answers. This was a statement game, and after this, Louisville should have a fight on its hands next week.
North Texas is in trouble. If it couldn't handle the FIU passing game, what is it going to do against the Houston air show? The offensive line didn't get any sort of a push against the Golden Panther defensive front, and Lance Dunbar didn't get any room to move with just 43 yards on 18 carries. Derek Thompson has to make defenses pay for keying on Dunbar and the ground game, and he didn't partly because he didn't get any time. This wasn't what head coach Dan McCarney was looking for in his debut, and while he needs to work on his offense, after this game, the focus will likely be on the defense. With Alabama to follow the date with the Cougars, improvement might be hard to find.
(AP) MIAMI -- T.Y. Hilton gained 283 all-purpose yards as Florida International set school records and defeated North Texas 41-16 Thursday night in the season opener for the two Sun Belt Conference teams.
Warnings of lightning in the area forced the stadium to be cleared for about 30 minutes before the game. The Panthers weren't deterred, scoring 28 points in the first quarter and setting marks for most points in a first quarter and in a season opener.
Hilton had seven catches for 132 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown pass from Wesley Carroll with 10:58 left in the first quarter to give the Panthers a 14-0 lead.
The senior wide receiver also gained 49 yards on two carries, returned two kickoffs for 92 yards and two punts for 10 yards.
FIUs running game amassed 249 yards and four touchdowns -- two apiece by Darriet Perry and Kedrick Rhodes.
Texas (0-0) at Florida International (0-0) Sept. 1,
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Here's The Deal … FIU is surging off of what was a season for the ages, capturing the Sun Belt Conference Championship en route to the school's first bowl appearance by defeating Toledo in last minute spectacular fashion to claim the Little Caesars Bowl hardware. Now the Panthers are looking to continue their success as the lead favorite to repeat as conference champions with several key pieces returning starting with star QB Wesley Carroll. Halfway across the country the North Texas Mean Green look to stretch their legs with a fresh start after the firing of Todd Dodge following a failed 3 ½-season experiment. Dan McCarney was hired in November from The University of Florida where he held the position of defensive line coach for the previous three seasons. McCarney is a known name around the program as he was a assistant under Hayden Fry in the 70's, which ironically was the last time the Mean Green were ranked in the top 25.
Why North Texas Might Win: McCarney knows what he's doing after leading the Iowa State program for over a decade, and he's bringing the energy as well as the experience to the job. He also is a terrific defensive coach that will field a hard working discipline unit, something North Texas hasn't seen in decades. One of the key moves was keeping former interim coach Mike Canales on as offensive coordinator after UNT erupted offensively the second half of the season. Explosive running back Lance Dunbar can rack up yards against arguably any defense in the country and is a true home run threat. On defense, there's plenty to be excited about with several returning upperclassmen on the defensive line to go along with strong nucleus of defensive backs.
Why Florida International State Might Win: The Panthers have the same make-up and enough talent to do what got them to the top of the Mountain in the first place last year, and that includes a run defense that should do a solid job against Dunbar. Quarterback Wesley Carroll returns to lead a solid passing attack, but the offense is still looking for more from the running game. There are plenty of options with former starter Darian Mallary returning after missing half of last season, while 2010 breakout star Darriet Perry scored 16 touchdowns to go along with 839 yards rushing. The defense will be anchored by veteran linebacker Winston Fraser, but the star is strong safety Jonathan Cyprien, who will spearhead a secondary that returns experience to go along with great talent. All of this experience could and should be too much for a UNT that should be good in time, but might not be ready to handle the defending champs out of the box.
What To Watch Out For: North Texas should be better now with a solid coaching staff and a clear vision of where they want to go as a program. Kicking off a new era probably isn't idea by opening on the road against the defending conference champions, especially whose expectations are even higher in 2011. While FIU is solid in the run game they could stand to be more consistent through the air. If UNT wants to have a fighting chance they will need to force the Panthers to beat them through the air, hoping their experienced secondary can come up with big plays to allow them to hang around long enough for a chance to steal the game come the fourth quarter.
What Will Happen: : It is just too much to ask for a rebuilding job to happen overnight, and beating Florida International on the road in week one would send the people of Denton, TX into a wild frenzy as well as put the conference on notice. Unfortunately they are facing off against a foe who hails an excellent coach with a solid foundation forming as a program on both sides of the ball. While it could be close early as both teams work out first week jitters, FIU should have plenty of weapons to pull away for a semi easy victory.
CFN Prediction: FIU 31 ... North Texas 20
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FIU -14.5 O/U: 53.5
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