Tuesday night at Tropicana Field, the college football bowl season continues with another great clash on the NCAA football odds, as the Florida International Golden Panthers meet the Marshall Thundering Herd in the 2011 Beef ‘O’Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl.
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Head Coach Mario Cristobal was probably considered for a number of the big time jobs in America this year, but at least for the time being, he has been passed over. It seems to be a bit shocking for a man that finally turned the Golden Panthers into a contender in the Sun Belt on an annual basis. Though FIU didn’t win the Sun Belt this year, it did win eight games and is in a bowl game for a second straight year after never having been in one bowl last season, and the team claimed a huge scalp by taking care of the Louisville Cardinals, the co-Big East champions early in the season. This is the final time that we are going to see the passing tandem of QB Wesley Carroll and WR TY Hilton. These two have had great career in the Sunshine State. Hilton is considered one of the most talented receivers in America, and when he can get past the safeties, it’s all over. Just ask Louisville how hard it was to defend him. Carroll, the transfer from Mississippi State, has only thrown four picks all season long, and he rarely makes mistakes.
On the other side of the ball, the Thundering Herd just have to be considered fortunate to be in this game. They had to win their final two games of the season just to qualify for a bowl game, and they did that with literally zero margin for error. The Herd were nearly upset by the Memphis Tigers, and they needed overtime to take care of the East Carolina Pirates. One would look at what Marshall did this year and cringe as to why this team is in a bowl game. The squad only went .500 against a paper thin schedule, though we must say that its best win against Louisville matches the victory that FIU pulled off. The Herd are a dangerous bunch, especially if freshman QB Rakeem Cato is getting the job done. He isn’t the most efficient passer in the world, but Cato has some tremendous skills, and if nothing else, these extra couple weeks of practice should help his growth dramatically.
Beef ‘O’Brady’s Bowl Keys to the Game: FIU has to find a way to make the big play happen, whether that comes with Hilton as a receiver, in the return game, or on the ground. We know that it will be able to move the ball, but the Marshall defense has had a tendency to bend but not break all season long. Cato can’t make silly mistakes, because the Golden Panthers, in a game that could feel like a de facto home game, will absolutely take advantage of any blunders. Take the Under in this one!
is a staff writer living in the Orlando area. He has covered NFL, MLB, college football, CFL, AFL, NBA, college basketball, NASCAR, golf, tennis, and the NHL for a number of various outlets in his career, and he has been published by a number of different media outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel and the Wall Street Journal.