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  • Toledo has the nation’s 11th-best scoring offense, but James Morgan and the FIU passing game could steal the show in the Bahamas.
By Zachary Cohen
December 09, 2018

Bahamas Bowl – Florida International Panthers vs. Toledo Rockets (-5.5)

Fri., December 21, 12:30 p.m. ET

Three things to know before betting on Florida International-Toledo:

1. Florida International has thrived playing as an underdog under current head coach Butch Davis, as the Panthers are 9-4 against the spread as underdogs over the last two years. Florida International is also 3-1 ATS when given extra time to prepare for a game under Davis and 7-1 ATS when playing teams with winning records. Meanwhile, Toledo is 0-5 against the spread (2-3 straight up) when facing teams that have a completion percentage of 62% or better under current head coach Jason Candle. Toledo is also 0-3 against the spread when playing teams that commit one or fewer turnovers per game under Candle. Combine that with the fact that the Rockets haven’t won or covered in a bowl game since Matt Campbell became head coach at Iowa State and it’s easy to see why Florida International might be feeling confident heading into this one.

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2. For a team that has had trouble covering against accurate passers, a meeting with quarterback James Morgan and Florida International definitely spells bad news for Toledo. Morgan has only thrown multiple interceptions in one game this season. It happened in his most recent game, a 28-25 loss to Marshall, and it’s extremely hard to see him doing it in back-to-back contests. Morgan only threw one interception in his previous seven games before facing the Thundering Herd. Not only does Morgan not turn the ball over very much, but he also threw for multiple touchdowns in all but two games this year. And the best part about Morgan is that he doesn’t lock in on one receiver. Eight players caught at least 10 passes from Morgan this year, so he is always keeping opposing defenses on their toes. He should light up Toledo’s 105th-ranked passing defense in this one.

3. Whereas Toledo’s defense seems ill-equipped to stop a potent Florida International passing game, the Panthers have a decent shot at keeping the Rockets’ offense in check. Toledo’s rushing offense was ridiculous this season. With Bryant Koback leading the charge, the Rockets rushed for 223.6 yards per game and a total of 29 touchdowns. But while Florida International allowed a lot of rushing yards per game (198.4), the team only gave up 19 rushing touchdowns. The Panthers can keep opposing rushers out of the end zone, and Toledo won't be able to fall back on its passing game. Quarterback Eli Peters is good but inconsistent. He can't be relied on to shred the Panthers through the air, as Florida International has the nation’s 26th-ranked passing defense. FIU looks like a team that can not only cover but win outright here.

Pick: Florida International +5.5

Confidence level: High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)

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