Back To Bowling

26 12 2010

After opening up the Bowl Season 3-0, work, Christmas shopping and holiday parties got the best of me.  But now I’m back!

In the first three contests I predicted, I went with the team that was favored.  Today, I pick my first underdog.  Here is why…

PREDICTIONS
Little Caesars Bowl
Florida International (6-6) vs. Toledo (8-4) – 11:00 a.m. (ESPN)
Detroit, Michigan
Line: Toledo by 1.5     Over/Under: 56.5

Don’t let the difference in these two records fool you, because both Florida International and Toledo are evenly matched and excited to be taking part in the postseason.

After losing 16 games over the last two years, the Rockets are bowling for the first time since 2005, while the Golden Panthers are participating in the postseason for the first ever in the program’s nine-year history.

Even though the down time between the regular season finale and bowl game can do a lot to cool a team off, Florida International capped conference play with plenty of momentum and confidence.  The Golden Panthers finished 4-1 down the stretch (averaging 38.0 point/game), including a 52-35 victory over Sun Belt Conference co-champs in Troy.

Playing the ‘comment opponent game’ also favors Florida International.  Troy recently handled Miami (OH) 48-21 in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, a team Toledo barely defeated 20-13 on a fourth-quarter touchdown in the second game of the season.

Even with that in mind, I just like Florida International’s ground game.  Junior Darriet Perry (707 yds, 14 td) and sophomore Darrian Mallary (669 yds, 2 td) have teamed up to rush for 1,376 yards and 16 touchdowns.  Their success has opened up the passing game as well, as junior quarterback Wesley Carroll has thrown just four interceptions in the last five contests, oppose to nine in the first seven games.

Even though the Rockets have a knack for creating turnovers, the Golden Panthers effective ground game (189.2 rush yds/gm – 28th in NCAA) and ability to take care of the football have me thinking of a Motor City upset.

NOTE:
While location figures to favor Toledo, both road teams who the previous two meetings between these schools.  The Rockets won 41-31 last season, redeeming a 35-16 loss to the Golden Panthers in 2008.

Final: Florida International 34,  Toledo 24

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