The FIU Golden Panthers are one win away from at least a share of the best record of all the college football teams in the state. Only the Florida State Seminoles enter bowl season with eight wins on the year.
That's right—the Golden Panthers have a better record than the Florida Gators, Miami Hurricanes, South Florida Bulls and Central Florida Golden Knights.The team is riding the momentum of back-to-back winning seasons.
This program has come a long way since starting play in 2002—and FBS play in 2005. Last season they won the Sun Belt Conference. They earned their first bowl victory in their first appearance in Little Caesars Pizza Bowl defeating Toledo 34-32.
Former FIU receiver Greg Ellingson feels this game means a lot to the program.
"It shows that we are more than just a rising program," Ellingson said. "We are relevant now. Being the best team in Florida. Also going to a bowl game for the second year in a row means we are becoming consistent with winning. Which is the goal. Making winning a habit."
The team is not only relevant but talented led by their dynamic receiver T.Y. Hilton. Hilton holds school records for catches, receiving yards and touchdowns. He sits among conference leaders with his 64 receptions, 950 yards and seven touchdowns in 2011.
FIU also has a playmaker in their running back Kedrick Rhodes. Rhodes 1,121 yards on the ground this season made him the team's first player to eclipse 1,000 yards on the ground since moving up to the FBS.
This is more than a bowl game for FIU, it is a pivotal moment in this program's development.