In a technical sense, Cal and Hawaii opened up the college football season in Sydney, Australia last Friday night. In a practical sense, the college football season begins on September 1 with seven games. One of the biggest line movers thus far has been the matchup between Indiana and Florida International, as the Hoosiers make the trek down to Miami to battle the host Panthers. Indiana opened around a five-point favorite, but the betting market is threatening to push the line above double digits.
Indiana vs. FIU College Football Preview
Date/Time: Thursday September 1, 7:30 p.m. ET
College Football Betting Odds from 5Dimes
College Football Betting Favorite: Indiana -9.5
Last season, the Hoosiers turned in a 6-7 straight up record that finished with a bowl game loss to Duke. Indiana lost 44-41 in overtime to be robbed of their first winning season since 2007. Indiana was 7-6 against the number, however, their first season on the plus side since 2009 when they were 7-5 ATS in Bill Lynch’s third season. After turning in a solid 8-4 ATS mark in 2014, FIU regressed to a 5-5-2 spread record last season. They won five games for the first time since 2011, but fell short of their first bowl berth since that season. FIU is 6-8 ATS as a home dog under Ron Turner.
Kevin Wilson received a contract extension from the school after leading the team to its first bowl game since 2007. He’ll begin his encore presentation with JUCO transfer Richard Lagow leading the offense. The six-foot-six Cisco College transfer posted a 21/10 TD/INT ratio with the Wranglers last season. He’ll inherit an offense that has to replace leading rusher Jordan Howard, the UAB transfer who ran for over 1,200 yards last season, and a couple of offensive linemen. Leading receiver Simmie Coates is back after a 1,000-yard season and Ricky Jones threatened the 1,000-yard mark as well.
Defensively, the Hoosiers gave up 37.6 points per game last season and they gave up 511 yards per game in conference play. FIU didn’t do a lot with the football last year, relative to Indiana’s other games. The Hoosiers gave up 406 yards in the 36-22 win and they covered as a 7.5-point favorite. The top five tacklers are back from last year’s unit, but the Hoosiers have a new defensive coordinator in Tom Allen. Allen was the DC last year for a USF defense that only gave up 22.9 points per contest.
For the first time since the Mario Cristobal era, there seems to be some optimism within the FIU program. Junior quarterback Alex McGough has 23 starts under his belt and posted a solid 21/8 TD/INT ratio last season while completing 64 percent of his passes. In terms of returning production, the Panthers bring back their top two rushers and their top three pass catchers. Alex Gardner picked up over 1,200 all-purpose yards on offense and Thomas Owens had eight touchdown receptions. The Panthers also have one of the country’s better tight ends in senior Jonnu Smith, who has over 1,200 yards receiving over the last two seasons.
Ron Cooper was elevated to defensive coordinator and has a group that gave up 29.8 points per game and 406 yards per contest last season. The FIU defense does return its top tackler in Anthony Wint, a first-team Conference USA linebacker, so he will be the anchor of the defense. Unfortunately, FIU has to replace both corners, including Jeremiah McKinnon, who had three of the team’s nine interceptions. FIU did lead early in the fourth quarter last year in Bloomington, so they can play right with this Big Ten foe.
Pick: Florida International +9.5
Indiana has to break in a new starting quarterback and will be doing some experimentation on defense under first-year DC Tom Allen. For FIU, there’s a lot more continuity heading into the season. It’s hard to say that FIU is markedly worse than last season’s group, which stayed within the number for a while last year on the road. The line movement should be respected here, but FIU will carry some nice value if this number does hit 10.
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