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On Tuesday, December 20th, two teams that are going to be thrilled to be pitted against one another on the 2011 bowl schedule meet in the Beef ‘O’Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl, as the Florida International Golden Panthers take on the Marshall Thundering Herd.
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Beef ‘O’Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl Matchup: FIU Golden Panthers vs. Marshall Thundering Herd
Beef ‘O’Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl Date/Time: Tuesday, December 20th, 8:00 ET
Beef ‘O’Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl Location: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, FL
Beef ‘O’Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl Odds: Florida International -4
Beef ‘O’Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl Total: 48.5
Beef ‘O’Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl TV Coverage: ESPN, ESPN3.com
When you first look at what Florida International accomplished this year, you see a team that really did some special things. Sure, the Golden Panthers didn’t win the Sun Belt once again, getting beaten by the Arkansas State Red Wolves, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, and Louisiana Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns, but the only loss that was truly inexcusable this year was the one at home against the Duke Blue Devils. Aside from that, there were eight sturdy wins in a conference that was a heck of a lot better this year than most would give it credit for. There was a huge win on the road at the Louisville Cardinals, the Big East co-champions, and a huge road win over one of the best teams in the land not to be in a bowl game this year, the UCF Knights.
You also see an FIU team that picked up a heck of a lot of experience last year in winning the Sun Belt, prompting many to look at Head Coach Mario Cristobal as a potential candidate for some big time job openings across college football. QB Wesley Carroll is going to be playing in his final game in college after two years at Mississippi State and a redshirt year to transfer, and he does a remarkable job protecting the football. The Golden Panthers have a fantastic receiver who is sure to be playing at the next level in WR TY Hilton, and their rushing game was respectable this year with RB Kedrick Rhodes leading the way with 1,131 yards and eight scores.
And then there is Marshall, a team that you would first look at and shake your head at. The Herd had to win their final two games of the regular season just to make it to a bowl game, and they did so by the skin of their teeth. They were absolutely trounced by the Virginia Tech Hokies, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, and Houston Cougars, and the end result saw them getting outscored by over eight points per game and outgained by about 80 yards per game. QB Rakeem Cato is a freshman, and he has made his share of mistakes as he learns the ropes in Huntington, and he doesn’t have a rusher or a receiver that had even 600 yards for the season.
And now, parlay all of that with the fact that this isn’t all that far away from being a home game for the Golden Panthers, and the choice in this one seems awfully easy… right? Maybe not… Marshall also went on the road and beat the exact same Louisville team, and it also beat a Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles squad that went on to win Conference USA. If Cato can avoid the turnovers, we could absolutely see Marshall pulling off the upset in this game, especially since the team has closed out three straight seasons very strong, and it has won all but two of its bowl games in team history, posting a 5-2 record. Only one of those games was lost by more than four points, the 2004 Fort Worth Bowl against the Cincinnati Bearcats. Take the points and know that an upset could be in the cards.
Free Beef ‘O’Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl Pick: Marshall +4
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