The Florida International and UCF are not the most powerful teams in the state of Florida, but they’ll play for bragging rights just the same when they open the new college football betting season.
The crew at Florida International is more hopeful about this season. FIU was absolutely terrible in 2013, going 1-11 and looking like it didn’t even deserve to have a program in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Last year, though, the Golden Panthers made genuine forward strides, going 4-8 and picking up three new wins to bolster their standing in college football. The defense was substantially improved, giving up almost 33 percent fewer points than it did in 2013. What the team will also rely on is the fact that it was breaking in a freshman quarterback, Alex McGough. He was learning on the job last season, and now that he comes back as a sophomore, he should have a much better understanding of head coach Ron Turner’s offense.
Turner, it should be pointed out, guided Illinois to the Sugar Bowl in the 2001 season. He is a talented coach with NFL experience. He could be just the man to help FIU take the next step to a 6-6 or 7-5 record this season. That’s FIU’s goal: to become bowl-eligible in 2015.
UCF took a step back from 2013 last season. The Knights were still solid, at 9-4, but the 2013 team won the league championship in the American Athletic Conference and won the Fiesta Bowl against Baylor. The 2014 team could never hope to match that standard. The Knights were still very strong in the AAC last year, but Memphis and Cincinnati joined them atop the league. It’s going to be harder, not easier, for UCF to succeed.
This line has moved between -12.5 and -13 points in favor of UCF. This might come across as a startlingly low line, given how well UCF was just two seasons ago and how awful FIU has been for much of its history. What seems to be at work is that UCF has an entirely new secondary after having one of the best secondaries in the country the previous two years. The Knights’ linebackers and wide receivers were also hit hard by graduation. There is a worry that in an early season game, this team will be very disorganized. That’s why the College Football Odds are not much higher than they are.
Florida International has a bunch of players unavailable due to a combination of either injuries in some cases or suspensions in others. Wide receiver Juwan Caesar is an injury casualty in this game. Safety Jordan Davis is not in this game due to academic reasons. Wide receiver Shawn Abrams will not play in this game. Offensive lineman Kai Absheer will also miss this contest.
Two other FIU players, running back Napoleon Maxwell and offensive lineman Jordan Budwig, are out for the whole 2015 season.
UCF has three players out for this game. Defensive lineman Demetris Anderson is out for the whole season. Defensive back Chris Williams and Wide receiver Taylor Oldham are out for indefinite periods of time.
Handicapping The Game
FIU is getting better, and UCF is not. However, UCF was still five games better than FIU last season, and should still be three or four games better this year, even with a rougher schedule. Vegas seems to be looking at UCF’s flaws on a larger level, but not in relationship to this game and this opponent. UCF is still far more skilled and athletic than FIU. Take the Knights here as your College Football Pick.
College Football Pick: UCF -12.5 at 5Dimes