In what was a chaotic 2020 across the world of sports, the FIU Panthers football team did something it had only done just once before: go through an entire season and lose every single game they played.
The 0-5 record in head coach Butch Davis’ fourth season with the team has left some to wonder if the panic button needs to be smacked in Southwest Miami-Dade – and if we’re seeing the end of the Davis era as a college football coach.
But, a funny thing happened on the way to the funeral: this year’s FIU team looks to be somewhat better on paper as long as they can figure out who the starting quarterback will be for the opener on Thursday against Long Island.
Can the Panthers do enough to put together a winning season and get back to their fourth bowl game appearance in the last five seasons? Here’s our breakdown of the 2021 FIU Panthers.
Most Important Player: LB Eric Mitchell
Yes, the fact that the best player for the Panthers is someone who hasn’t played a down for them yet might be a sign of how things are. But, after compiling 175 tackles over four seasons for UCF, the Miami Central alum will likely crack the starting lineup for the opener.
The first thing that might help the Panthers win a game next season? Giving up less than 32 points per game, which was what the defense averaged in 2020 and even more of an argument why players like Mitchell will get plenty of early run.
Biggest Question: Who will be the starting quarterback for the Panthers in 2021?
With Stone Norton’s transfer following last season, just two quarterbacks who threw a pass last season return in 2021 with redshirt senior Max Bortenschlager likely to get the first attempts in the opener after throwing for 284 yards in all of 2020.
That being said, don’t be surprised if Kaylan Wiggins gets a chance after the redshirt junior came in to try his best during the 2020 campaign. With the other three options all being freshman, it seems at this point like it’s a two man race for the starting spot.
Most Important Game: September 11th vs. Texas State
FIU has not won a game since defeating Miami on November 23rd, 2019, which may have people wondering why the opener isn’t the most important. At this rate, we’re going to give them the benefit of the doubt they can beat the FCS level Sharks.
What game two against the Bobcats will tell is if this is a team that can compete with other teams in the FBS level – and if Davis has enough left in him for one more coaching turnaround before calling it a career.