Florida International vs. Toledo: Bahamas Bowl preview and predictions

Nick Bromberg

Florida International (8-4) vs. Toledo (7-5)

Location: Nassau | When: Dec. 21 (12:30 p.m. ET) | TV: ESPN | Line: Toledo -4.5

HOW THESE TEAMS GOT HERE

FIU: The Panthers were one of the best teams in Conference USA. Two of the team’s four losses came to Indiana (38-28) and Miami (31-17). The other two losses came to an underwhelming Florida Atlantic team and Marshall, who is in the Gasparilla Bowl. FAU was a win away from bowl eligibility, though a 35-point loss to Lane Kiffin’s squad isn’t the best look.

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Toledo: The Rockets also lost to Miami and by a larger margin. The Hurricanes beat the Rockets 49-24. Toledo’s other losses came to Fresno State (49-27), Eastern Michigan, Buffalo and Northern Illinois. On the upside, all five of those teams are going to bowl games. The Rockets’ best win was either a 63-44 win over Nevada or a 51-24 win over Western Michigan.

Jon’Vea Johnson averages over 21 yards a catch. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jon’Vea Johnson averages over 21 yards a catch. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH

There will be points. Both teams are in the top 35 in scoring offense and Toledo averages over 40 points per game. Also, you can skip work on the Friday before Christmas, sit back with a beverage or two and watch two teams play football in sunny weather. Or, if you’re stuck at work, watching the Bahamas Bowl is better than anything else you could be doing, right?

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Maurice Alexander, WR, FIU: The converted quarterback has turned into a multi-purpose weapon for the Panthers. Alexander moved to wide receiver after two seasons at quarterback and has become both a rushing and receiving threat. He has 17 carries for 110 yards and is second on the team with 35 catches for 444 yards. He also has six total touchdowns in 11 games.

Maurice Alexander has scored six touchdowns in 2018. (Photo by Samuel Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Maurice Alexander has scored six touchdowns in 2018. (Photo by Samuel Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Jon’Vea Johnson, WR, Toledo: Johnson is Toledo’s deep threat. His 29 catches are third in the team but he has 611 yards (second) and seven touchdowns (tied for second). He’s upped his yards per catch by nearly five to 21.1 in 2018 and has broken 100 receiving yards in a game just once in 2018. But he’s also averaged fewer than 13 yards per catch once in 2018 and has scored a touchdown in each of his last three games.

WHAT’S ON THE LINE

FIU: The Panthers haven’t won a bowl game since 2010 when the team won the now-Quick Lane Bowl. Oregon coach Mario Cristobal was FIU’s coach back then. A win would also mean a record nine on the year for FIU.

Toledo: The Rockets are aiming to avoid a third-straight bowl loss. Toledo’s last bowl win came in the 2015 Boca Raton Bowl. That was Jason Candle’s first game as the team’s head coach.

PREDICTIONS

Nick Bromberg: Toledo 40, FIU 33
Sam Cooper: Toledo 38, FIU 34
Pat Forde: Toledo 45, FIU 35

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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