In the wake of an exhilarating overtime win over Bryant, the rest of the 2022 season didn’t go as well for Florida International.
The Panthers went on to only win three more games and go 2-6 against Conference USA opponents, including a four-game losing streak to finish the year. FIU hopes that, in head coach Mike MacIntyre’s second season, last year’s experience leads to a positive turnaround in 2023.
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FIU Football’s Conference USA Title Odds
FIU Football’s Over/Under Win Total
Florida International’s win total Over/Under is 3.5, with Under 3.5 at +105 and Over 3.5 at -125.
FIU Football’s Schedule
8/26 at Louisiana Tech
9/2 vs Maine
9/9 vs North Texas
9/16 at UConn
9/23 vs Liberty
10/4 at New Mexico State
10/11 vs UTEP
10/18 at Sam Houston
10/25 vs Jacksonville State
11/11 at Middle Tennessee
11/18 at Arkansas
11/25 vs Western Kentucky
Bold indicates C-USA contests.
Key FIU Football Returners
2022 All-Conference USA Honorable Mention
QB Grayson James
OL Jacob Peace
LB Donovan Manuel
P Daton Montiel
Grayson James Leading The Way For FIU’s Offense
James made the all-conference honorable mention list last year as a sophomore. He totaled 1,962 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions while completing 59% of his passes to go with 223 yards and three touchdowns rushing.
Who his top receivers might be is a bigger concern. Wide receiver Tyrese Chambers, who led FIU with 544 yards and four touchdowns on 51 receptions, went to Maryland while tight end Rivaldo Fairweather, who was second on the team with 426 receiving yards to go with 28 catches and three touchdowns, went to Auburn.
However, wide receiver Kris Mitchell, who tallied 348 yards and four touchdowns on 23 receptions, is back. FIU also added tight end Christian Pedersen, a transfer from Louisville.
Lexington Joseph, a senior running back who led the team with 536 rushing yards and five touchdowns, returns. Former South Dakota running back Shomari Lawrence also joined the Panthers via the transfer portal.
While the Panthers were last in rushing offense last year (105 yards per game), they did do a good job of protecting James. They allowed 18 sacks, the fourth-fewest in CUSA.
Jacob Peace, a 6-foot-5, 304-pound senior, made the all-conference honorable mention list last year playing primarily at right guard but also starting games at left guard and right tackle.
John Bock II, Wyatt Lawson, and Phillip Houston also started games on the offensive line and return. FIU also added Gardner-Webb transfer O-lineman Travis Burke this offseason.
Donovan Manuel Returns For FIU’s Defense
Six of the Panthers’ top 11 tacklers are back this season. Gaethan Bernadel, who paced FIU with 103 tackles and made the All-CUSA honorable mention list, went to Stanford.
But Donovan Manuel, who was second on the Panthers with 97 tackles to go with a team-best 8.5 tackles for loss, returns after also being an all-conference honorable mention last year.
Shaun Peterson Jr., who reportedly transferred to UCF, led the team with six sacks last year. But redshirt sophomore Jordan Guerad, who was second on the team with three sacks, is back.
FIU was eighth in Conference USA last year in total defense (451.9 yards per game allowed) and ninth in scoring defense (37.3 points per game allowed). After that performance, the Panthers made several additions through the transfer portal.
Defensive linemen Jack Daly (Bryant) and Claude Larkins (NC State), linebackers Avery Huff (Miami) and Elijah Anderson-Taylor (Northern Colorado), and defensive backs J.T. Anderson (Bryant) and JoJo Evans (Kent State) are some of FIU’s newest members who were playing for Division I programs a year ago.
FIU Football Season Prediction
The Panthers won’t win the Conference USA title and won’t even get to four wins.
While FIU did win four games last year, several of its conference matchups weren’t even close. That includes a 73-0 loss to Western Kentucky and a 40-6 defeat to UTEP.
While the Panthers may be better talent-wise in 2023, I don’t believe they’ve quite closed that gap with the rest of the league.
FIU probably won’t beat Liberty or Western Kentucky, the two CUSA title odds leaders, even if those contests are at home for the Panthers. I also don’t expect them to beat North Texas, which moved to the AAC, or to secure wins against Arkansas, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, or New Mexico State on the road.
That leaves Maine, UConn, UTEP, Sam Houston, and Jacksonville State as potential wins for FIU. While the Panthers could defeat Maine and potentially even UTEP at home, I think they’ll lose to UConn for the second consecutive season and will split their games against FBS newcomers Sam Houston and Jacksonville State.
That leaves FIU with just three wins and another disappointing season. However, the Panthers had the top recruiting class among CUSA teams this year, so perhaps the future is looking brighter for the program.