Kevin Wilson gets his sixth year as Indiana’s head coach underway Thursday night on the road against FIU. The Hoosiers will once again get a chance to show how talented their offense may be, while Wilson will kindly ask you not to pay much attention to his defense. That’s been the signature of Indiana under Wilson, with an exciting offense that can hang with the likes of Ohio State but a defense that leaves much to be desired.
That should once again be the case Thursday night as the Hoosiers look to start the 2016 season with a win against an FIU squad looking to score a victory over an FBS program for the first time since upsetting Louisville (of the old Big East) in ‘11.
Indiana at FIU
Kickoff: Thursday, Sept. 1 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Indiana -9
Three Things to Watch
1. Indiana’s offense will overpower FIU on the road
Even though the Hoosiers have to replace quarterback Nate Sudfeld and running back Jordan Howard, you can count on Kevin Wilson’s offense to be firing on all cylinders out of the gates. Redshirt junior Richard Lagow gets the call at quarterback with junior Devine Redding leading the running game. With experienced wide receivers and an offensive line anchored by four upperclassmen, Indiana’s offense should be good to go in Week 1, especially against an FIU defense that ranked 76th in total defense and 85th in scoring defense a year ago.
2. Experienced FIU offense should make plays against Indiana defense
We could have a nice little season-opening back-and-forth affair in store for us in Miami. Indiana is known for its offense and lack of defense, and that is good news for FIU. The Panthers will have an experienced offense led by third-year starting quarterback Alex McGough and 1,200-yard rusher Alex Gardner (also the team’s leading returning receiver). FIU will likely struggle to stop Indiana’s offense, but the Panthers should be able to make some plays against the Hoosiers defense to hang around.
3. Indiana and FIU each have solid season-opening trends
In the past 13 seasons, Indiana has won 12 season openers. That’s a pretty solid track record, even for a program that has been in the middle of the pack at best in the Big Ten. While with a much smaller sample size, FIU boasts a 2-0 record in Thursday night season openers at home. FIU also is 4-1 all-time in season openers played on a Thursday. Something will have to give.
Indiana should manage to get off to a decent start this season before hitting Big Ten play, even if that means taking to the road in Miami in Week 1. The defense will be a significant concern as the season rolls along, but the Hoosiers should manage to get by with it on Thursday night against FIU. Look for the road team to take charge early and pull away in the fourth quarter with the edge on offense. It may not be pretty, but the Hoosiers will take a win any way they can get it.
Prediction: Indiana 37, FIU 29
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.