This week is Shula Bowl XVII and in case you’re not familiar with the South Florida rivalry between Florida Atlantic and Florida International, we’ve got you covered.
Started in 2002 and named in honor of former Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula, the Shula Bowl has alternated annually between Florida Atlantic and Florida International’s home stadiums since 2013.
This year it’s at FIU Stadium in Miami. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday and you can watch it here at Stadium.
The winner, which receives the Don Shula Award, has alternated in each of the last six seasons with the home team winning the last five meetings. Florida Atlantic leads the all-time series 11-5 after winning the Shula Bowl in eight of its first nine years.
The full series history:
|2004||Florida Atlantic||17-10||Miami Gardens|
|2006||Florida Atlantic||31-0||Miami Gardens|
|2008||Florida Atlantic||57-50||Miami Gardens|
|2010||Florida Atlantic||21-9||Fort Lauderdale|
|2013||Florida Atlantic||21-6||Boca Raton|
|2015||Florida Atlantic||31-17||Boca Raton|
|2017||Florida Atlantic||52-24||Boca Raton|
Don’t be surprised if the trophy changes hands again this weekend as the Conference USA East-leading Golden Panthers (6-2, 4-0 CUSA) put their four-game winning streak on the line against the Owls, who are in the midst of a down year after coach Lane Kiffin led them to 11 wins in his first season in Miami. FIU’s only losses this season have been two-score losses against Power 5 opponents Indiana and Miami (FL).
Here’s a game preview with players, matchups and storylines to watch.
Players to watch:
QB James Morgan
Morgan has a 19 to 4 touchdown-to-interception ratio this season, and he’s thrown 11 touchdowns and no picks in his last four games.
How about his stat line versus Arkansas Pine Bluff: 9-for-14, 341 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT
That’s almost 38 yards per completion and 24 yards per attempt, in case you were wondering.
Morgan has had a strong QBR in each of FIU’s four games since the Golden Panthers’ loss to Miami and Florida Atlantic ranks 92nd in the country in pass defense, so he could have another huge day.
LB Sage Lewis
Lewis is FIU’s top tackler with 88 stops, including one sack and 2.5 tackles for loss. He also has five pass break-ups, which ranks second on the team, showing his versatility in coverage.
What FIU does best: The Golden Panthers are averaging 36.1 points per game, which ranks 26th in the country. They’ve scored at least 24 points in every game other than their 31-17 loss to the Hurricanes and their offense has put up a huge number on two occasions – 63 against UMass and 55 against Arkansas Pine Bluff.
Another area in which FIU excels is pass defense (28th nationally at 191 yards allowed per game), and they’re 17th in the country in turnover margin with a +6 margin for the season (+0.75/game). They’ve only turned the ball over seven times this season, so even if their defense isn’t elite at creating turnovers, they take more than they give.
The coach: Butch Davis
It’s apropos that Butch Davis, whose first head coaching job was at Miami (FL), where he had a six-year tenure that culminated in an 11-1 season and a Sugar Bowl win in 2000, is coaching in the Shula Bowl that celebrates the football tradition of South Florida. He spent four seasons at North Carolina (2007-2010) before taking over at FIU last season. Davis’ career record is 93-50 (.650), a record that has since been adjusted to 77-50 by the NCAA due to vacated wins.
Players to watch:
RB Devin Singletary
Singletary is knocking on the door of another 1,000-yard season; he might even get it this week as he enters the weekend with 837 yards through eight games. He’s rushed for at least 100 yards in four of Florida Atlantic’s last five games, including a season-high 171 last week.
He has 15 rushing touchdowns this season, which is equal to the number of rushing and receiving touchdowns his teammates have combined for. The 5-9 junior might be having a “down” season compared to his sophomore campaign of 301 carries, 1,920 yards, 6.4 yards per carry and 32 touchdowns, but Singletary is on the short list of the best running backs in the country.
LB Rashad Smith
Smith leads Florida Atlantic in tackles with 68 (25 more than the next highest total on the team), tackles for loss (five) and interceptions (three). The Owls’ defense has been porous this season – and that might be putting it generously – but it’s not because of Smith.
What Florida Atlantic does best: Score in the red zone. The Owls have scored on more than 89 percent of their trips to the red zone (27th nationally) and they’ve scored a touchdown 72 percent of the time (22nd). It helps having the aforementioned Singletary, who leads Florida Atlantic’s rushing attack that averages 220 yards per game.
The coach: Lane Kiffin
Here’s your reminder that Kiffin is only 43 years old. He’s already been the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Tennessee, USC and now Florida Atlantic, with a three-year run as Alabama’s offensive coordinator in between his last two head coaching jobs. While Kiffin has constantly been on the move since playing quarterback for Fresno State in the mid-’90s, he has a solid career winning percentage as a college head coach. He’s 49-29, good enough for a .628 winning percentage.
The two best Lane Kiffin tweets from this season: Admittedly, this has absolutely no impact on the game nor does it matter, but Lane Kiffin is one of the most entertaining follows in college athletics. He tweeted a scene from the movie “Hoosiers” the morning of Florida Atlantic’s game against Oklahoma – and the Owls promptly lost 63-14.
— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) September 1, 2018
He was self-deprecating after the fact.
— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) September 3, 2018