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At First Glance: Pitt vs. Florida International

Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sp

Pitt disposed of Boston College in a good game last Friday, but the team didn't come out completely unscathed. The Panthers now travel to FIU minus starting center Artie Rowell, who tore an ACL in the game against the Eagles.

Despite that injury and the one T.J. Clemmings also suffered, Pitt's chances to come away with a win on the road are still pretty good.

Florida International could be one of the weakest teams in the FBS. The Golden Panthers (yes, they're Panthers, too) did win convincingly this weekend against Wagner, 34-3, but Wagner is in the NEC - the same conference as local FCS teams Duquesne and Robert Morris. Only a week earlier, FIU was upset by Bethune-Cookman of the MEAC (also an FCS team), losing 14-12 - at home, no less. Woof.

For that reason, the competition is one reason not to take their No. 6 ranked defense too seriously. After all, the Golden Panthers have played only FCS programs to date.

FIU also remains a bit unsettled at quarterback with a bit of a controversy. In the opener, true freshman Alex McGough replaced starter E.J. Hilliard. McGough started last week's game against Wagner, but he was a modest 9-18 for only 60 passing yards. For now, McGough may be the starter, but (and I'll have more on this later), both will probably play.

The Golden Panthers also rely on the running game. There, they're led by another true freshman, Alex Gardner. Gardner rushed for a freshman school record of 138 yards on only 15 carries against Wagner, averaging just over nine yards per attempt.

Pitt will need to also be wary of tight end Jonnu Smith, who is playing well and is going to be a favorite target of whichever quarterback is in there. Smith had a big game against Wagner, hauling in nine balls for 127 yards and a touchdown.

FIU's defense has been stout and a few guys have been making plays for them on offense. All of that said, Pitt is just a tremendous step up in competition for them. Both FIU and Pitt have faced FCS teams, but Pitt has looked far more impressive in doing so, crushing Delaware 62-0. There's just not much point in hashing out all the things the team has done because FIU should have a handful with them.

Meanwhile, Pitt will be dealing with the tough blow to Rowell. The small bit of good news that comes out of this is that backup Gabe Roberts will have some time to prepare before the team's big game against Iowa next weekend. Roberts got to play much of the game against Boston College last week and will have the game against FIU to get his feet even more wet.

No game for Pitt is a gimme - particularly road ones. But at first glance, it's hard not to like the team's chances against what looks to be a young and not particularly good team.

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