This was a disappointing season with everything hanging on figuring out a way to beat Miami and get to a bowl game. Then FIU beat Miami and is eligible to go bowling.
Before this season we talked seriously about an FIU team in the championship game. Instead, it is rival FAU, a team that has owned the Shula Bowl without breaking a sweat. Butch Davis has been a success at FIU but without the crowning achievements that typically seal a tenure at a school. His win over Miami was a signature kind, however, one that will live in FIU lore for a long while and that means something.
FIU had James Morgan, a nice run game, and a returning defensive star. Last season they were a win away from getting into the title game before a late season loss ended their chances. James Morgan played the best quarterback in the league — yes, better than Fine — and things were looking bright.
A couple of things happened: WKU looked like a juggernaught and FIU did not look ready for the season. FIU averaged 34+ last year and only 26 this year. The run defense, always a little iffy, allowed 400+ to Middle Tennessee in an awful loss. It was quite the underperformance.
League observers have seen this before. It happened at ODU last season, when the team was supposed to impress and instead didn’t do much beside upsetting Va Tech. That was followed by a losing season and Bobby Wilder “stepping down“. James Morgan is gone after this season and someone new will need to take the reins.
Butch Davis is a good recruiter and FIU has had good classes each of his years there. There will not be real pressure on him — especially after that Miami win — for a while or until FIU implodes. In his time, Davis has won more than Kiffin for a stretch (until this season) but has none of the championship appearances.
The thing is that Miami win is going to help in recruiting and donations and all of the things that a successful season can do. At the very lest it put the Miami coach on the hottest of seats. You can build with that kind of clout, folks.
The next step is a real run at a league title. The East is stronger than the West right now and will be for the foreseeable future. FAU, Marshall, a revived WKU, a renewed Middle, and a tough Charlotte all look to challenge for a division title next season. Butch Davis cannot enjoy that Miami win for too long.