35 Bowls in 24 Days: Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl

Keep an eye on FIU receiver T.Y. Hilton -- the best receiver on the field

Today’s bowl series is off to St. Petersburg, Florida and the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl. The Dec. 20 bowl will feature Florida International and Marshall, two teams that have taken different paths to get to this game.

More: The complete bowl schedule

Florida International Golden Panthers (8-4, 5-3 Sun Belt) vs. Marshall Thundering Herd (6-6, 5-3 Conference USA), Tuesday, Dec. 20, 8 p.m. [ESPN]

FIU enters the game as a four-point favorite, and they should probably be favored by more. Marshall barely became bowl-eligible in their last game of the season and FIU had a very, very good year by their own standards. Their 8-4 record is the best in program history, which began in 2002. Head coach Mario Cristobal is in his fifth season as head coach, and under his watch, the Golden Panthers have 24 of the program’s 39 total wins.

But the expectations have been raised in Miami and FIU expects to win this game. The school is 1-0 in bowl games after their victory over Toledo in last year’s Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl. Remember their cross-town brawl with the Miami Hurricanes in 2006? They’ve come a long way since that.

On the other side, you have the Marshall Thundering Herd, who finished second in their division of C-USA, behind only Southern Mississippi. They boast defensive end Vinny Curry, who won the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year award after a great season that included 11 sacks, three blocked kicks and six forced fumbles. The defensive unit forced 28 turnovers and will need to have a big day if they want to beat FIU.

Here’s why — the Golden Panthers are very solid on offense. FIU is road-tested and rolling on a three-game winning streak. They’ve averaged more than 33 points per game during this winning streak, and quarterback Wesley Carroll threw for five touchdowns and no interceptions in the final two games of the season.

FIU receiver T.Y. Hilton leads the team with 950 yards and seven touchdowns, but Marshall also has the ability to score through the air. Herd QB Rakeem Cato is just a freshman, but he has compiled very promising stats, throwing for 1,833 yards and 13 touchdowns. In Marshall’s last game, Cato threw for 341 yards and two touchdowns against East Carolina.

Cato’s favorite target is clearly receiver Aaron Dobson, who has scored 10 touchdowns this season — a career high. If Marshall is going to win this game, it will be a result of Cato limiting the interceptions (he has thrown 10 of them this season) and the defense continuing their trend of forcing the opponent to turn the ball over.

I think FIU will be more relaxed (they got that first bowl game out of the way last year, and they are experienced bowl veterans now) and Marshall’s 2-5 road record will catch up to them on Tuesday night.

My prediction: FIU 33, Marshall 21

Past Days: Day 1

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