FACTS & STATS: Site: FIU Stadium (23,500) -- Miami, Florida. Television: None. Home Record: Louisiana Tech 1-2, FIU 0-3. Away Record: Louisiana Tech 1-2, FIU 1-2. Neutral Record: Louisiana Tech 0-1, FIU 0-0. Conference Record: Louisiana Tech 1-2, FIU 1-1. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: Two teams desperate for a win will collide on Saturday when the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs head to FIU Stadium for a Conference USA bout with the FIU Panthers.
The Bulldogs' first season since the departure of Sonny Dykes has not gone well. Under Skip Holtz, the Bulldogs have managed just a 2-5 overall record and a 1-2 mark in league play. The Bulldogs have lost four of their last five games, including a 28-13 setback at home to North Texas this past weekend.
Things have been even worse for FIU, which, like Louisiana Tech, is in its first season in C-USA. The Panthers own just a 1-5 mark, with the lone win coming by a single point against 0-6 Southern Miss. The Panthers nearly had their second win last weekend but a Ty Long field goal with 10 seconds to play sent them home disappointed with a 27-24 loss to UAB. The Panthers are also learning under a new head coach as Ron Turner is in charge on the sidelines.
Louisiana Tech came to the league by way of the Western Athletic Conference, while FIU was playing in the Sun Belt prior to this season. With no conference connection these teams have never crossed paths prior to this season.
Previously, under Dykes, the Bulldogs were an offensive force. Holtz has not been able to recapture that magic, as the Bulldogs have been a rather mediocre team in that area, scoring just 19 points on 390.9 yards per game.
Against North Texas Ryan Higgins did throw for a season-high 343 yards, while completing an impressive 66.7 percent of his pass attempts. There was bad news though as he was intercepted twice. Higgins has just three passing touchdowns this season and none in his last two games. He has thrown for 1,119 yards and five interceptions, while taking 16 sacks this year, including at least three in each game.
While the passing game was effective against North Texas, the running game was not. Leading rusher Kenneth Dixon (579 yards, three TDs) had just 25 yards on 12 carries, as the team finished with just 37 yards on the ground. Dixon has ability as he has shown with three 100-yard efforts this season, including a 200-yard performance.
Andrew Guillot (25 receptions, 316 yards, two TDs) put forth one of his better performances of the season against the Mean Green with a season-high 10 receptions for 99 yards. Guillot has seen uneven returns most weeks though as he has just one other game with more than 50 yards receiving and has had less than 25 in four games. Richie Casey (17 receptions, 196 yards) and Sterling Griffin (22 receptions, 194 yardS) have been similarly inconsistent.
One of the strengths for the Bulldogs has been rushing the passer as they have 16 sacks, good enough for fourth in the league. However, that has not led to overall defensive success as they are among the four worst teams in the conference in total defense (417.1 ypg). Still, IK Enemkpali (5.5 sacks) is one of the better pass rusher in the league and Daniel Cobb (59 tackles, 9.0 TFL) is one of the better all-around defenders.
Louisiana Tech has to feel better about itself offensively when looking at FIU. The Panthers are the worst offensive team in not only the conference, but in the country. They are posting just 222.8 yards of total offense each week, which is the worst mark of the 125 FBS teams.
Jake Medlock is the man under center. Medlock managed his best game of the season against UAB as he threw for a season-high 302 yards and two scores on 50 percent passing. Medlock was intercepted for the fourth time this season in the contest but the 302 yards was more than he had in the previous two games combined and nearly doubled his season total.
Silas Spearman (214 yards, three TDs) handles the rushing duties for the Panthers and has been solid in the last two weeks with 181 yards and three touchdowns on 51 carries. Lamarq Caldwell (193 yards, TD) has seen a more diminished role as a result.
The lack of passing success has meant very little work for the FIU receivers, who have not exactly impressed when they have been targeted. T.J. Lowder (15 receptions, 209 yards, two TDs) leads the team in receptions and yards but had just a single catch for nine yards against UAB.
FIU has been slightly better than Louisiana Tech in terms of total defense (416.3 ypg) but that hasn't stopped teams from posting huge scoring totals, as the Panthers are allowing 39.5 points per game. The Panthers are not a team that gets a great deal of pressure on opposing quarterbacks (nine sacks), while they rank second to last in the league in red zone defense with 28 scores allowed in 29 attempts, including 21 touchdowns.
Neither of these teams is going to figure into the C-USA title chase barring a miraculous turnaround. However, the deficiencies for FIU outweigh that of Louisiana Tech, which should get a rare win on Saturday.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisiana Tech 31, FIU 17
Saturday, October 26, 6 p.m. (et)