This game will be different than the other match-ups over the years. This could be the biggest Shula Bowl so far because of the implications. Both teams are fighting for the C-USA East title – a crown neither team has won since joining Conference USA.
FAU has the easier run at winning this title as the Owls can clinch it with a win either against FIU on Saturday or next week at Charlotte. If FAU wins the Shula Bowl this year, they will also tie their most wins in a season as an FBS program with eight and would still have three games remaining.
For FIU needs to win out in order to win that East title. The Panthers (6-3, 4-2 C-USA) have no room to slide to have a shot at their first C-USA title.
The Panthers’ highest profile loss came in Week I to UCF, who is one of four undefeated teams in the nation. FIU also played a rough game against FCS foe Alcorn State, squeaking out a 17-10 win.
FIU then struggled with two opponents in C-USA that the Owls didn’t have problems with. The Panthers could not handle MTSU, losing 37-17 in Tennessee. They also lost last week to struggling ODU 37-30 last weekend. FIU was not able to stop the run against ODU, allowing running back Tay Lawry to run for 168 yards and two scores.
FAU leads the all time series at 10-5 heading into Shula Bowl XVI, but in the last six meetings, but FIU has taken four of the past six. When played at FAU stadium, FAU has won the last two meetings by a combined score of 52-23.
This will be the first Shula Bowl experience for FAU coach Lane Kiffin and FIU coach Butch Davis. Both turned around the fortunes of their teams, leading both to bowl eligibility. This is the first time both teams in the same season have become bowl eligible.
THE FILE : FAU (7-3, 6-0) vs. FIU (6-4, 4-2)
Shula Bowl Series: FAU leads 10-5
Last Meeting: FIU 33, FAU 31 (2016)
The Panthers, who run the spread offense, are a team that can run and pass the ball. Quarterback Alex McGough has not had his best season, having thrown seven interceptions but he can spread the ball. Plus he has his go to receiver Thomas Owens. Alex Gardner enjoyed some success running the ball this year as he 579 yards and three scores.
Offensive Players to Watch:
- 81 Thomas Owens, Sr., WR: Owens has been the most targeted receiver on the season for the FIU Panthers. He leads the team with 59 receptions, which are 30 more than any other receiver on their team. McGough likes to throw downfield to him and especially when they are in the red zone.
- 12 Alex McGough, Sr., QB: The field general for the Panthers. He had a rough game last year against FAU. The Owls held him to under 200 yards passing and snared two interceptions. With this new team he has around him, he has been better at avoiding turnovers. With Owens being a playmaker, McGough will look to him frequently but he will also pass the ball around the field.
- 1 Alex Gardner, Sr., RB: Coming off a 100-yard performance last year against the Owls, Gardner has already proven he can find success against the Owls. He enters the game with 579 rushing yards and three scores, but FAU’s has struggled at times containing quality running backs this season.
The Panthers run a 4-3 defense, which can be a good, run stopping defensive scheme. They’ve also been getting pressure all year as, their 18.5 sacks on the season can attest. Last year the Panthers were able to keep FAU’s running back Devin Singletary from running up and down the field, limiting him to 86 yards on 17 carries. They also baffled FAU quarterback Jason Driskel, allowing only nine completions for 92 yards and a touchdown.
Defensive Players to Watch:
- 52 Treyvon Williams, Sr., LB: The leading tackler for the Panthers, Williams can sniff out the ball. He can makes plays against the run or pass, as he has eight tackles for losses this season, including three sacks. Against UCF Williams had a team-leading 14 tackles and against UTSA had a team-high 13 tackles.
- 27 Brad Muhammad, Sr., CB: Muhammad has a team-leading four interceptions on the season. He is the player to fear in the FIU secondary. The Panthers as a team only have five picks. Muhammad returned one of those interceptions for a touchdown, something FAU has failed to do this season.
- 7 Fermin Silva, Jr., DL: Silva can cause pressure the quarterback and make tackles behind the line. He leads the team in both tackles for a loss, 11, and sacks, 3.5. Against Tulane earlier this year, he recorded three tackles for a loss and two sacks.