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It’s a clash between Conference USA and the Mid-American Conference from an island paradise as bowl season is underway. The Florida International Golden Panthers battle the Toledo Rockets in the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl on Friday, December 21. Florida International fell 28-25 in their season finale at home against Marshall, costing them a spot in the Conference USA title game. Toledo finished the season winning four of five, including a 51-13 demolition of Central Michigan at home in their season finale. The Golden Panthers have taken two of the three previous meetings, including a 34-32 win in the last matchup, which came in the Little Caesars Bowl on December 26, 2010.
Florida International Golden Panthers Try to Close Season Strong
Florida International held their own destiny in the regular season finale: beat Marshall and win the East Division of Conference USA and a spot in the conference title game. Instead, the Golden Panthers were unable to take care of business and sent Middle Tennessee to the title tilt. Florida International fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter and never got back to even: the closest they could get was three points, which happened twice in the final quarter. The Golden Panthers held a 391-330 edge in total offense, had 25 first downs to Marshall’s 21 and won the time of possession by a 32:29 to 27:31 margin yet still lost. Both teams turned the ball over twice: Florida International allowed a pick six but did score on a blocked punt return.
— Stadium (@WatchStadium) November 24, 2018
The Golden Panthers enter this contest 53rd in the FBS in passing offense with 247.6 yards per game and 70th in rushing offense with 170.3 yards per contest. Florida International is 31st in the country in scoring offense with 34.6 points per game and 47th in scoring defense by allowing 24.7 points per contest. Bowling Green transfer James Morgan has completed 213 of 326 passes for 2,727 yards with a school-record 26 touchdowns against seven interceptions this season. Christian Alexander is 19 of 29 for 218 yards and an interception while rushing for 98 yards plus a score. Napoleon Maxwell is the leading ground gainer as he has run the ball 121 times for 673 yards plus seven touchdowns. D’Vonte Price (88 attempts, 539 yards, five scores) and Shawndarrius Phillips (94 carries, 393 yards, four TD) are next in line. In the passing game, CJ Worton leads the team with 36 receptions for 620 yards and six touchdowns. Maurice Alexander (35 grabs, 444 yards, five TD), Bryce Singleton (28 catches, 336 yards, two TD) and Austin Maloney (28 receptions, 582 yards, five TD) are also good targets. Jose Borregales has booted 49 of 50 extra point attempts and 14 of 19 field goal tries this season with a long of 53. Phillips won’t travel with the team after being arrested December 12 on a domestic violence charge.
Toledo Rockets Hope to Avenge 2010 Bowl Loss
Toledo closed the season strong to finish the regular season slate 7-5 as they pounded Central Michigan in their finale. The Rockets hope to avenge a last-second loss to FIU from that Little Caesars Bowl contest in 2010 here. Toledo led 14-0 after the opening quarter, 27-0 at the half and 37-0 after three quarters en route to the blowout win. The Rockets outgained the Chippewas 473-181, picked up 26 first downs while allowing 16 and controlled the clock by a 31:29 to 28:31 margin. Toledo did commit four turnovers, including a scoop six that got Central Michigan on the board, while forcing just one takeaway in the game.
Lift. Off. 🚀
— #MACtion (@MACSports) November 28, 2018
The Rockets are flying high offensively this season as they average 224.9 yards per game through the air and put up 223.6 yards per contest on the ground. Toledo is 11th in scoring offense with an average of 41.1 points a contest and is 84th in scoring defense by allowing 30.2 points per game. Mitchell Guadagni has hit 69 of 120 passes for 1,053 yards with 13 touchdown passes against three interceptions while adding 428 yards and three scores on the ground. He’s missed the last four games with a shoulder injury and is out for the season. Eli Peters is 124 of 227 for 1,573 yards with 15 touchdowns against seven interceptions. The ground game for Toledo has been by committee so far this season: Art Thompkins is second on the team with 98 carries for 563 yards plus six scores. Shakif Seymour (113 carries, 526 yards, five TD) and Bryant Koback (139 carries, team-high 875 yards, 13 TD) are in the mix as well. Cody Thompson is tied for the team lead with 43 receptions for 592 yards and 10 scores. Diontae Johnson (43 grabs, team-high 663 yards, seven TD) and Jon’Vea Johnson (29 receptions, 611 yards, seven TD) are capable secondary options. Jameson Vest has hit 61 of 63 extra points and 14 of 19 field goal attempts with a long of 47 yards.
- Rockets are 10-1 ATS in their last 11 games after allowing less than 275 total yards in their previous game
- Rockets are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 Friday games
- Rockets are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games overall
- Golden Panthers are 1-4-1 ATS in their last 6 games in December
- Golden Panthers are 0-5-1 ATS in their last 6 neutral site games
- Golden Panthers are 0-4-1 ATS in their last 5 vs. MAC opponents
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
The missing pieces in this one aren’t overly pressing for either side. Phillips was third on the depth chart at running back and had a warrant out all season, yet inexplicably managed to play in every game. Guadagni’s injury hurts the Rockets but he’s been out a few games, allowing Peters to step in and get acclimated. This one comes down to skill position players: the Rockets have a trio of talented receivers and an explosive return game with Thompson. Florida International is going to have a tough time keeping up with that. Take Toledo and give the points here.
Prediction: Toledo Rockets -5.5
Full-Game Total Pick
We know that these teams can put points on the board in bunches. Toledo is 11th in the nation putting up better than 41 points a game and Florida International is no slouch in that department either when you get right down to it. The big question will be whether the defenses can come up with stops. In that department, the Golden Panthers have the edge based on their regular season numbers. Can the Rockets find a way to improve their defense and stop Florida International’s attack or will this devolve into a shootout?
The over is 5-0 in the Golden Panthers’ last 5 games overall. Toledo has seen the over go 4-0 in their last 4 non-conference games, 7-1 in their last 8 games after accumulating more than 450 total yards in their previous game, 6-1 in their last 7 games after allowing less than 275 total yards in their previous game and 10-2 in their last 12 games after allowing less than 170 yards passing in their previous game. Given the tendency for both teams to put points up, this one likely squeezes over the number.
Prediction: Over 58.5