(8-4, 7-5 ATS)
Florida International Golden Panthers
(6-6, 6-6 ATS)
For the first time in the program’s brief history, the Florida International Golden Panthers are playing in a bowl game. The Little Caesars Bowl welcomes the Sun Belt champs to Ford Field, where they will take on the Toledo Rockets, who were arguably the last choice to make a bowl game this year in a MAC conference where two bowl eligible teams were left home.
The Rockets are very, very lucky that they got the call to this game in front of the also 8-4 Temple Owls, especially knowing that they do not have their starting quarterback available for this game. QB Austin Dantin injured his shoulder back in the beginning of November and has not played since, nor will he suit up for the Little Caesars Bowl. Instead, QB Terrance Owens is going to be in charge of the offense. The argument could be made that Owens was the better of the two signal callers on the year, as he threw for 1,112 yards and 12 TDs against two picks. RB Adonis Thomas rushed for 905 yards and six scores, but the man to really watch out for is WR Eric Page. Page is just six catches away from 100 for the year, and he has 1,081 yards and eight scores to show for his work.
Though Head Coach Mario Cristobal loves his job down at FIU, he has to be disappointed that a 6-6 season that is ending in a bowl game wasn’t good enough to get his name called for the premier job in South Beach, that of the Miami Hurricanes. However, give Cristobal credit, as he might be about five years or so away from really having a great program down in Miami of his own. The Golden Panthers took some tremendous strides in the right direction this year, namely that tremendous 52-35 win over the Troy Trojans on the road that essentially won the Sun Belt. The only blunders after starting 0-4 on the season came in the form of a road loss to the Florida Atlantic Owls and a home defeat to the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders in the meaningless finale. Even so, looking back at those four losses, three of the four were very respectable, as losing to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Texas A&M Aggies, and Maryland Terrapins by a combined 26 points is nothing ot be ashamed of. Keep a close eye on QB Wesley Carroll in this one, as the Mississippi State transfer knows what it takes to win games like this one.
We see these Sun Belt teams crop up every season and steal bowl games it looks like they have no business winning. The argument could be made that the Golden Panthers played the tougher schedule this year, especially with this brutal out of conference slate, and we tend to believe that that is going to be parlayed into a ‘W’ in their first trip to a meaningful December tussle.
Little Caesars Bowl Free Pick: Florida International Golden Panthers +1.5