FIU next up for WKU

Head coach Willie Taggart and the WKU football team sing the WKU fight song. WKU won 26-13 against Arkansas State at Liberty Bank Stadium on Sep. 29, 2012.

Lucas Aulbach

Florida International hasn’t won a conference game this season and is riding a six-game losing streak.

But that doesn’t mean the Toppers are overlooking their next opponent.

FIU (1-7, 0-4 Sun Belt Conference) was the preseason choice among SBC coaches to win the league, and coach Willie Taggart said the Panthers still have the ability to beat any team on their schedule.

“They didn’t pick FIU to be the No. 1 team in this conference for no reason,” he said. “It’s probably the best 1-and-whatever-their-record-is team that’s out there, so we’ve got to come ready to play and play our ballgame.”

WKU (5-2, 2-1) will take on FIU in Miami at 5 p.m. Saturday.

FIU might have the weakest record of any team on the Toppers’ schedule, but the Panthers haven’t been on the receiving end of any blowouts this season.

They lost their last game against Troy by one point and played Louisville down to the wire earlier this season before losing by a touchdown.

The struggles the team has endured have come as a surprise to much of the league. FIU was one of three Sun Belt teams to get invited to a bowl game last season after compiling an 8-5 record.

Senior left guard Luke Stansfield said he’s seen flashes of that winning team on the FIU game film he’s watched this week.

“I watched a little bit of film on them and I was like, ‘Man, they really don’t look like a 1-7 team,’” he said.

The Toppers will face another one of the best quarterbacks in the Sun Belt on Saturday in FIU’s Jake Medlock.

The sophomore has tossed just one interception all season while throwing for 1,523 yards and nine touchdowns in six games.

The Panther defense has been a liability up to this point, though, giving up an average of 37.4 points per game, a figure which ranks last in the Sun Belt.

Coming off a 42-point performance last Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe, the Toppers will be looking to exploit that defense.

That offensive explosion isn’t the only aspect from that game hanging over WKU’s head this weekend, though.

ULM handed the Toppers their first conference loss of the season and ensured that the Warhawks would have to lose at least two games for WKU to win the Sun Belt.

Taggart said the best way for his team to make up for the slip would be to start winning again.

“We’ve got to worry about these next five ballgames,” he said. “If we take care of those, everything else will take care of itself.”

Senior wide receiver Marcus Vasquez said the Toppers decided they wouldn’t let that ULM loss affect the way they prepared for the Panthers this week.

“It’s a loss, it’s a big loss for us, but we’ve got to move on, and it’s up to the seniors to kind of keep everybody up,” he said. “We’ve got another game, and we’ve got to move on.”

ULM came to Bowling Green with bowl aspirations on the line. FIU might not have the same outlook, Stansfield said, but the Panthers have the talent to play with the Toppers.

“They’re Division I college athletes just like we are,” he said.

“They have a lot of pride and they believe in themselves, and I have no doubt that they’re gonna give us their best shot on Saturday.”