Florida International Golden Panthers (6-6 SU, 6-6ATS) vs. Toledo
Rockets (8-4 SU, 7-5 ATS), Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, 8:30 p.m. EST,
Sunday, December 26, 2010, Ford Field, Detroit, Mich., TV: ESPN
by Badger of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: FIU +1.5/Tol -1.5
Over/Under Total: 56
Most of the football viewing public will probably be watching the
Philadelphia Eagles and Michael Vick take on the Minnesota Vikings
with or without Brett Favre on the Sunday Night NFL game the night
after Christmas, but for those diehard college football and bowl
maniac fans the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl with the Florida International Golden Panthers and the Toledo Rockets will be playing at the same time across the
dial on ESPN.
Its curious to me why Little Caesars would pay so much to have their
name associated with a Florida International-Toledo barnburner, but I
The Florida International Panthers did play their way into a bid to
their first bowl game ever in school history (nine years as D-1
team), winning six of their last seven games of the season just to
become bowl-eligible with a, 31-24, victory over Arkansas State the
Saturday after Thanksgiving. Their signature win of the season was a,
52-35, upset on the road at Troy in early November, a win that helped
them tie for the Sun Belt Conference title (with Troy), but they
could have won the title outright if not for a, 28-27, loss to Middle
Tennessee in their finale.
The Rockets were perhaps the hottest team in the Mid-American
Conference at the end of the season, winning five of their last six
games of the year to gain an invite to the MACs automatic bowl-tie-
in game at Ford Field. If not for a terrible first half against
Northern Illinois (down 28-0 before losing 65-30) on November 9th,
the Rockets may have been in the MAC title game, and they could be
eager to parley their snub and lack of respect they seem to be
getting into motivation for a strong bowl showing.
Either the oddsmakers were dead-on in regards to the point spread in
the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, or theres a total lack of interest by
the betting public, or both, but the opening number of Toledo favored
by 2-points has barely moved at all. Its down to the Rockets minus
-1.5-points at most sportsbooks, but there are a few sportsbooks listing it at minus -1 point.
The over/under total hasnt moved off of 56, where it opened at,
either in the few weeks its been on the board. There must be a
little bit of money on the over since there are a few books up the
hook to 56.5, but most of the sharp-money houses like Bovada are still listing 56 as the total.
Both offenses in this game are similar statistically, with Florida
International holding a slight edge in yardage (403 ypg) and points
(28.3 ppg) over the Rockets season averages of 362 and 27.8.
As usual, both units rely on the quarterback to generate success and
in this game it means it will become a battle between the Panthers
junior Wesley Carroll, a transfer from Mississippi State, and Toledo
freshman Terrance Owens making his fourth career start for the Rockets.
Carroll has the benefit of a strong running game behind him, one that
has averaged 190.6 yards per game with Darriet Perry (707 yards, 14
TD) as the feature back. But in the games this season when the
Panther ground game has been stuffed, Carroll has shown he can throw
the ball (2,483 yards) but just not always to the right team (15 TD,
Owens, who was thrust into the lead role of the Rockets attack when
starter Austin Dantin separated his shoulder in the Eastern Michigan
in late October, has played beyond his years in his four games (1,112
yards on just 136 attempts), finding Toledos stud receiver Eric Page
(1,081 yards, 8 TD) at crucial situations and getting increased
production out of running back Adonis Thomas too.
Thomas and the Rockets running game may prove to be the key, because
if they can get yards against a really weak Florida International run
defense (allow 160.1 ypg) then Owens wont be pressured to win it
with his arm.
Toldeos defense is strong in their front seven and good against the run (131.5 ypg), but they give up big plays in bunches, especially
through the air (238.9 ypg), so Florida International will need
Carroll to make good decisions with the ball in order to throw it a
little and loosen up the Rockets for the Panther run game.
The nice part about this game is that these two schools have a little
history behind them, and its very recent history too.
Toledo came into Florida last September and beat the Panthers, 41-31,
as 1-point underdogs on the road. It was payback for when the
Panthers traveled up to Ohio the season before (in 2008) and not only
covered the large 18.5-point spread as underdogs, but beat the
Rockets straight up in a huge, 35-16, upset.
The under wager has a few strong betting trends worth looking at,
with it going 4-0-1 in the Panthers last five December games and 4-0
in Toledos last four neutral site games as well.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The month off the Rockets have been sitting and
getting rusty worries me, but Im still confident enough in Toledo to
take them in a what amounts to a pickem. I think the under is a
strong bet too, because both teams will be rusty and nervous in the