FIU visits the University of Louisville Saturday and the Panthers are ranked 175th in the latest Sagarin college football ratings.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – There is no kind or pleasant way to say this. So I will begin with a stinging question:
Will Florida International be the worst visiting team to play in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium since it opened 15 years ago?
The immediate reaction is to laugh or shake your head. Ridiculous. Preposterous. Outrageous. A blocking sled knows better than to ask that.
FIU is an ultra-ambitious program that fired its head coach in 2012 as it moved up in the football world from the Sun Belt Conference to Conference USA. For heaven's sake, the Panthers are based in Miami. You can recruit a Top 50 team in Miami with pep band leftovers.
FIU visited two years ago and beat Louisville. The T.Y. Hilton game. That's all I have to say. Now you remember FIU. The Cards went to Miami a year ago and exited with a difficult, seven-point victory. The game was tied at halftime. That's all Charlie Strong has to say to have his team ready Saturday.
I asked the question earlier Wednesday on Twitter. There were several nominees for the worst visiting team, each deserving.
Indiana State visited Louisville in 2009 when Larry Bird University was in the middle of a 33-game losing streak. That was a terrible 1-10 team. Steve Kragthorpe beat the Sycamores by three touchdowns.
Memphis stopped by in 2010 only a week after the Tigers got popped by Tulsa, 48-7. That was a bad club. A truly bad club.
I have not forgotten that unforgettable 2001 Houston team, the one that failed to win a game, including a 24-point loss to U of L. Those Cougars earned their place in the Bad Football Team Hall of Fame. I'd feel terrible taking it away from them.
Here's my conclusion: Put the ridiculous, preposterous and outrageous comments down until Saturday evening and the Panthers are traveling back to Miami.
Because today FIU is definitely in the discussion. The Panthers deserve a strong look – and votes.
Here is the early evidence: Louisville is favored by 42 ½ points. According to the data at PhilSteele.com, Louisville has never been favored by more at PJCS.
The spread for that Indiana State game was 41. It was 40 for the Middle Tennessee State game in 2007 as well as the 2006 Temple game.
OK, I understand that those Louisville teams weren't as powerful as this Louisville team. That's a factor. So those three visitors had to be truly inept. They were.
But there's more. After three weeks this season, the 2013 Panthers have been outscored by 92 points, an average of nearly 31 per game. One FBS team has been outscored by more – New Mexico State, by 93.
FIU has played 10,800 seconds of football this season. The Panthers have not led for one second. Not a snap.
When in doubt, I usually retreat to the safety of Jeff Sagarin's computer rankings. Sagarin currently ranks FIU at 175 in the nation. Only three FBS programs – Massachusetts (176), New Mexico State (186) and Georgia State (213) – are ranked lower.
Papa John's Cardinal Stadium opened in 1998. Sagarin's ratings are available back to – thanks, Jeff – 1998.
Three previous opponents have worse power ratings – and all three were FCS teams (Indiana State in 2009; Tennessee Tech in 2008 and Murray State in 2007).
That certainly puts the Panthers in the debate, at least as the worst FBS team. Check the video from the way that Bethune-Cookman chewed through FIU last weekend, averaging 6 yards per carry while crackling for 311 rushing yards in a 34-13 victory. The only thing FIU does well is return kicks.
So all the warning signs indicate that FIU is bad, certainly bad enough to earn consideration as the worst team to visit Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. A final judgment can be made Saturday night.