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FIU relishes tough non conference schedule


FIU relishes tough non conference schedule


FIU relishes tough nonconference schedule

July 27, 2009 4:30 PM

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

Since the Sun Belt Conference formed in 2001, its members have traditionally played some of the tougher nonconference schedules in the country. Overmatched Sun Belt teams often schedule games with SEC and Big 12 schools in return for large guarantee money that can help keep a program afloat.

Mario Cristobal is mentally preparing his team to expect to upset one of its nonconference opponents.

But just because these games are set up to be easy wins for the nation's six BCS conferences doesn't mean Sun Belt teams don't look at them as an opportunity to put their programs on the map.

In 2004, Troy convinced Missouri to come to Alabama and handed the Tigers a 24-14 loss. In 2007, Louisiana-Monroe went into Alabama and beat the Crimson Tide 21-14. And last year, Middle Tennessee defeated Maryland 24-14 and Arkansas State defeated Texas A&M 18-14.

So it's no surprise that Florida International coach Mario Cristobal, who arguably has the toughest nonconference schedule of any of the Sun Belt teams, has his team preparing for their nonconference as if an upset was not only possible, but likely.

"God forbid the day we ever approach a game thinking, 'Well, it might not be a good day for us.'" Cristobal said during last week's Sun Belt media day. "Everyone in the building and I know everyone in the conference feels the same way. We take and sign on to every playing opportunity as a chance to have a victory and fully believing that we're going to win that football game. Players are going to take on the personality of their coach and our personality is to play anyone in the country. And we're going to keep along those lines."

The Panthers play at Alabama and at Rutgers to begin the season and play at Florida in the second-to-last game of the year.

Since the FIU joined the Sun Belt in 2005, it has never defeated a team from the six BCS conferences. It was close against Maryland and South Florida, but has lost by an average of 28 points to SEC opponents and hasn't scored more than nine points against one.

Still, Cristobal said the allure of playing an SEC school in front of 100,000 people is something that helps him on the recruiting trail and something that has allowed him to pick up better recruits during each of his three recruiting seasons. Just this year, Cristobal signed his first four-star recruit in linebacker Larvez Mars and tight end Dudley LaPorte, who is considered one of the best tight end prospects in the country.

And this year, FIU goes into these games as the most seasoned team in the country. According to Phil Steele, FIU leads the nation with 412 career starts between its players. Florida ranks sixth on that list, Alabama ranks 51st and Rutgers ranks 75th.

"It builds confidence," Cristobal said. "We came to FIU to build a championship football program and we've come a long way and we have a long way to go … . The types of young men that we are recruiting are the types that want to play on that big stage, that want that challenge and want a chance to knock off a top 10, Top 25 football team."

and Graham Watsons FIU love affair continues. We aren't mentioned for beating Minnesota and I know they only had 1 win that year but A&M wasn't to much better this past season

My two favorite teams are FAU, and who ever is beating FIU!
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Re: FIU relishes tough non conference schedule

True, but FIU does have the most "experienced" team returing in the nation. Unfortunately, most of their experience is of the butt being kicked kind! But if they have learned their lessons and built talent, thay may be very tough this season.
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