Before every football game this year, The Blue Zone is going to sit down with a football writer from the opposing school's student newspaper to get the scoop on their team and season.
This week, The Chronicle's Andrew Beaton spoke to Florida International University's Student Media sports editor Brandon Wise about the season-opening game for both teams on Saturday.
The Chronicle: Duke's currently a few point favorite in this game--with FIU getting a few votes in the preseason poll, did that surprise you?
Brandon Wise: And It could go either way with that you know? Yeah FIU's receiving votes in the poll, but there are still a Sun Belt school taking on a BCS team. Even though Duke has had its issues the past few years, they did beat the Panthers last year in their house. Now, it's going to be at Duke, I think that the Blue Devils should be the favorites.
TC: What do fans have to be excited about for the Panthers this season? Who needs to step up for them to exceed expectations?
BW: The fans are curious to see who steps into the T.Y. Hilton spotlight. His graduation leaves a sizable hole in the WR core, but its a group that comes into this season with a lot of experience. The number one guy will likely be Wayne Times, who showed glimpses of explosiveness last season. Also, Jacob Younger is a big body receiver who burst onto the scene when Hilton was hurt. There are a lot of expectations on this team to be the best in school history, even higher than last year when there was a plethora of seniors. It will be interesting to see exactly who steps up. You also have to wonder how well Jake Medlock steps into the starting role full time at quarterback when he had two spot starts last season. Its his team now, he has to go out there and prove that he should be THE guy.
TC: How about the other side of the ball? FIU had one of the stingiest defenses in football last season, allowing just 19.5 points per game, despite giving up 31 points to Duke--will their defense be as good this year?
BW: The defense is coming in with a lot of hype this year. Even though it was expose in a few games last season, including when Renfree torched the secondary, they found a way. The way I would describe them heading into this season is bend but don't break. I could see this team giving up a decent amount of yardage this season, but I see them keeping a lot of teams of the scoreboard. If FIU's going to be a productive team, their likely to win a lot of their games 7-3, 14-10, or 21-13.
TC: What was it about Renfree and the Duke attack that gave FIU so much trouble last season when it was otherwise consistently so solid?
BW: I think that the secondary really hadn't seen a QB or WR of that size with Renfree being 6-foot-5-inches and Conner Vernon being 6-foot. The size was always a problem for this secondary. Look at the bowl game against Marshall where they had to matchup with Aaron Dobson who is 6-foot-3-inches. When most of the corners on the team top out around 5-foot-9 inches or 5-foot-10 inches, thats a mismatch against a bigger receiver. So heading into this game, I think that Vernon still poses a matchup problem size wise against the smaller corners from FIU.
BW: I really think this comes down to a last minute field goal and I just think that Renfree and Duke find a way to win at home. I'll go with Duke 21, FIU 20.