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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Nov. 3, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Ladd-Peebles Stadium (33,471) -- Mobile, Alabama. Television: None. Home Record: FIU 1-4, South Alabama 2-2. Away Record: FIU 0-4, South Alabama 0-4. Neutral Record: FIU 0-0, South Alabama 0-0. Conference Record: FIU 0-5, South Alabama 1-3. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: A pair of Sun Belt Conference bottom-dwellers will face off in Mobile on Saturday afternoon when the South Alabama Jaguars play host to the FIU Panthers.
After qualifying for a bowl game in 2011, FIU has had a very disappointing season, winning just one of its nine matchups, and it has registered seven losses in a row. The Panthers fought hard last week against one of the conference's best teams, but ultimately fell at home to Western Kentucky, 14-6.
South Alabama's first season as a member of the Sun Belt has been a struggle, but it has shown signs of improvement in recent weeks. The Jaguars notched their first FBS conference win two weeks ago against Florida Atlantic (37-34), and they held firm against first-place ULM for three quarters last week before falling on the road, 38-24.
This bout marks the first-ever meeting between these two schools on the football field.
FIU (24.6 ppg, 386.4 ypg) had shown consistency on offense, putting up 20 points or more in every game this season before failing to score a touchdown in last week's loss.
Jake Medlock ranks third in the conference in passing yards per game with 244.3 on 58.3 percent completions while tossing nine touchdown passes. He's also been careful with the football, throwing just two interceptions.
Wayne Times (471 yards, TD) is fourth in the conference in receptions with 49, but it's been Willis Wright (20 receptions, 474 yards, two TDs) who has stepped up of late by recording three straight 100-yard receiving games. It is the first time in program history that a player has accomplished that feat.
The running game has been largely unreliable, with leading rusher Kedrick Rhodes (409 yards, two TDs) averaging fewer than four yards per carry. Darian Mallary (344 yards) has made the most of his 81 carries as he is second in the league with nine rushing touchdowns.
The defense has been dreadful, allowing nearly 35 ppg, but the unit had its best performance of the year in permitting just 14 points to WKU last week.
Johnathan Cyprien has been one of the busiest safeties in the conference with a team-high 74 tackles and two interceptions. Tourek Williams anchors the defensive line with 10 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.
South Alabama is the second-lowest scoring team in the league (19.6 ppg), but a switch at quarterback has given the team new life as it has scored a total of 90 points (30 ppg) in three games since Ross Metheny has taken over full- time under center.
Metheny has seen time in all eight games, but since taking over the starting gig from C.J. Bennett, he's averaged more than 210 passing yards per game in three starts while throwing six touchdowns to just two interceptions.
Jereme Jones (25 receptions, 285 yards, five TDs) has been Metheny's favorite target, and he's coming off a career game against ULM (seven receptions, 62 yards, two TDs).
Demetre Baker also had a big game last week (14 carries, 115 yards), adding to an already stellar campaign (97 carries, 482 yards, three TDs).
The Jaguars defense was no match for the high-powered ULM offensive attack last week, and on the season the unit has been burned often, allowing nearly 30 ppg.
Despite the defensive struggles, linebacker Jake Johnson (77 tackles, 10.5 TFL), safety Terrell Brigham (48 tackles, two INTs) and end Alex Page (6.5 TFL, five sacks) have each brought promise to the different levels of the defense.
Something has to give in this battle of struggling Sun Belt squads. South Alabama has played much better of late, and even though it fell short against ULM, it has to feel good about its performance on the road against the league's best team. Now that the Jaguars are at home against the SBC's worst team, they should be in line for their third win of the season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Alabama 31, FIU 24
10/31 10:42:19 ET
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