FIU Golden Panthers vs Toledo Rockets
Sunday, 12/26/10, 8:30 PM EDT, TV: ESPN
Opening Point Spread: Toledo -2
Current Betting Line: Toledo -1
Opening Total: 56
Current Total: 56
Florida International University gets set to play its first bowl game in school history on Sunday evening when taking on Toledo in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl at Ford Field in Detroit. “I think it will be a great experience,” said coach Mario Cristobal. “There’s nothing like the first. There are places I’ve won a ton of championships and gone to a tone of bowl games and we haven’t.” It’s an impressive feat in making a postseason game in the program’s 10th season overall and sixth year on the FBS level. Cristobal has been roaming the sidelines since 2007, turning around a tough situation with FIU being a massive commuter school that wasn’t ready for the move to the highest level of competition. The Panthers earned a bowl berth by winning six of their last eight games, with all of those contests coming against Sun Bowl Conference opponents. Florida International is 6-6 ATS on the year and currently a slight underdog on the college football lines page.
The Panthers will likely try to establish the running game in the early going and the backfield has been virtually a running back by committee for most of the season due to losing starter Jeremiah Harden to a toe injury. FIU averaged 189.2 yards per game on the ground, which was an 85-yard improvement over 2009. Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton is a major weapon to open of the offense, coming into this contest with 56 catches for 816 yards, while also gaining 278 yards on the ground. Defensively, the team will be trying to pressure the quarterback with a unit that recorded 31 sacks in 2010. The defense also made strides in stopping the run, holding opponents to 157.8 yards per game, which was a 75-yard improvement from the previous year.
Toledo finished the season with home wins over Bowling Green and defending MAC champion Central Michigan, giving them eight wins and a berth in its first bowl game since 2005. One of first-year head coach Tim Beckman’s highest priorities when he took over the program was getting back to a bowl game. “It’s a great reward for our players, especially the seniors, who have worked very hard this season and are deserving of a bowl of this stature and reputation,” Beckman stated. “We also look forward to playing a very tough FIU team.” The Rockets have an 8-2 record in their 10 previous bowls and have compiled a 1-2 record in postseason games in Detroit. Toledo is 18-18 ATS over the past three years.
The Rockets are tied for second in the country with the best turnover margin (+1.2) and tied with Hawaii as the nation’s leader in turnovers forced (33). Toledo also overcame the loss of quarterback Austin Dantin, who started the first nine games until suffering a shoulder injury. In his place, redshirt freshman Terrence Owens has been under center, leading the team to wins in three of the last four games.
Bettors will be interested in knowing that the Golden Panthers are 3-7 ATS as an underdog, while the Rockets are 10-21 ATS following a SU win.
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