FIU vs. Louisiana Tech Odds, Picks, Predictions | How to Bet Conference USA Showdown
Grant Halverson/Getty Images. Pictured: Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Cumbie.
FIU vs. Louisiana Tech Odds
Two head coaches enter their second season with an opening conference tilt in the new-look Conference USA.
Mike MacIntyre resurrected Florida International after a combined 1-16 record the previous two seasons, getting the Panthers to four wins. Sonny Cumbie, meanwhile, replicated his predecessor's results with three wins at Louisiana Tech, covering six games against the spread.
Expectations remain low at FIU, which enters the season with a market total of three wins. For the Bulldogs, oddsmakers predict six wins and a bowl to end a three-year drought.
If either team expects to make noise in Conference USA, Week 0 is a must-win for these second-year coaches. College football consumers would be lucky to get similar results as last October, as FIU defeated Louisiana Tech in a high-scoring double-overtime affair.
The advanced numbers for Florida International were abysmal in 2022, only receiving a top-30 grade nationally in pass rush, per PFF. Junior quarterback Grayson James was named the starter, bringing 10 starts of experience from 2022.
James is considered a dual-threat at the position, returning more than 300 yards rushing with 111 coming from 18 scrambles. Although the junior had an even touchdown-to-interception ratio, there were plenty more turnover-worthy plays than big-time throws in 11 games of action.
A look at the sharp touchdown from Grayson James and Kris Mitchell of FIU 🐾 pic.twitter.com/KL9JRPDVdl
— The Transfer Portal CFB (@TPortalCFB) October 29, 2022
Offensive coordinator David Yost prefers a fast-tempo RPO scheme, leveraging the strength of the team in the running back unit.
Lexington Joseph was set to return for a fifth season until a spring injury, paving the way for a number of transfers to lead the way. Shomari Lawrence transfers in from South Dakota, sure to make an impact with a career average of 3.5 yards after contact.
With the top two pass-catchers on the team moving on, receiver Kris Michell is expected to receive the lion's share of targets this season.
There were not many bright spots on the defense a season ago, as it ranked near dead last in third downs and Stuff Rate. The Panthers were consistently behind the chains and not behind the line of scrimmage, ranking bottom-20 in Success Rate and Havoc.
The linebackers have a chance to be one of the better groups in Conference USA, led by Donovan Manuel returning 7.5 tackles for loss and three pass breakups.
With nearly two-dozen transfers making their way to Ruston, quarterback Hank Bachmeier has the chance to make the biggest impact. The Boise State transfer has 41 career touchdowns to just 19 interceptions, though he suffered an injury last season and lost his starting job to Taylen Green.
Bachmeier has no shortage of arm strength, completing 18 big-time throws on passes over 20 yards during the 2021 season. That's good news for one of the best receiver units in the conference between slot Smoke Harris and the explosive Cyrus Allen.
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) July 12, 2023
Second-year defensive coordinator Scott Power must help the defense improve. The Bulldogs ranked near dead last nationally in tackle grading, Line Yards and defending the explosive rush.
Power fielded top-10 defenses at Stephen F. Austin but has yet to translate that success to the FBS level. Only two of Tech's top 10 tacklers return from a season ago, a possible positive point considering the results.
The strength of the defense comes in a secondary led by cornerback Willie Roberts and safety Cecil Singleton Jr. The Bulldogs finished mid-FBS in coverage and Passing Success rankings and return 69% of passes defensed from a season ago.
FIU vs. Louisiana Tech
Betting Pick & Prediction
There are two questions about the point spread heading into the Ruston showdown for Week 0:
- Is the point spread too high?
- Can Florida International be trusted?
The answer to those is a resounding "yes" and "no," respectively.
Action Network's power ratings make the game -4.5 in favor of the home team, a contrast from -8 at SP+ and double-digits with Sagarin.
The Panthers have covered only six games as a road underdog since 2018 with two of them being outright wins over Charlotte and New Mexico State last season.
There's a path to success for FIU, especially if Louisiana Tech's run defense hasn't improved. The Bulldogs allowed multiple 200-yard rushing games last season, including more than 1,200 yards combined to Missouri, North Texas and UAB.
The strength of the FIU offense comes from quarterback rushing attempts and a four-man stable of running backs behind an experienced interior on the offensive line. There's a path to scoring and generating a backdoor cover at the market number of 11 or better.
Louisiana Tech will not require a heavy pregame speech from Cumbie as a pep talk after the Bulldogs lost to FIU in double overtime last season.
DL Deshon Hall on starting the year against FIU, who beat #LATech in OT last season: "It's a revenge game. It's personal."
— Matt Belinson (@BelinsonMatt) August 22, 2023
Although there are plenty of issues to fix in terms of pass blocking and the defensive front seven stopping the run, backing FIU early in games has not been profitable. The Panthers finished second-to-last nationally in first-half point differential last season, averaging a net of -13.42 points.
Considering the poor opening season from Cumbie, the most impressive aspect may be the positive point differential in the first quarter of games in 2022.
With motivation on the minds of players and staff, look for Bachmeier to push a talented group of wide receivers downfield against a secondary that loses its biggest contributors in pass breakups.