Beef ‘O’ Brady Bowl Showdown: Florida …

Kedrick Rhodes leads Florida Int'l into the Beef 'O' Brady Bowl against Marshall.

In our continuing coverage of the NCAA College Football Bowl season, we turn to the next game on the line for online sportsbook betting, as the Florida International Golden Panthers (8-4) take on the Marshall Thundering Herd (6-6) in the Beef ‘O’ Brady Bowl from St. Petersburg, Florida.

Florida International enters tonight’s bowl game on the back of their best season since starting a brand new football program back in 2002. Coming off last year’s clutch 34-32 victory over Toledo in the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl, the Golden Panthers are quickly showing the nation that they are a program worth looking at, and look to parlay their recent success into tonight’s match-up with a Marshall team that just barely scraped into bowl eligibility this year. Winners of three straight games heading into tonight’s ridiculously-named bowl game, FIU has excelled on both sides of the football by allowing no more than 20 points to opposing offenses in 5 straight weeks, and has put up an impressive 33 points per game over its last three victories. With a balanced offense that hedges on a great receiver in T.Y. Hilton, who ranks near the top of the Sun Belt conference in all major receiver categories with 64 catches, 950 yards and 7 TDs, and a powerful running back in sophomore Kedrick Rhodes (FIU’s first 1,000 yard rusher with 1,121 yards, 8 TDs and a 5 yards/carry average), Florida International has the confidence to turn to either the passing or running games to pull them through contests. With quarterback Wesley Carroll also providing a solid presence behind center and not allowing many mistakes (just 4 INTs on the year, and no picks in the last two contests), Florida International’s game plan will center around ball protection, alternating passing and running plays, and not giving opportunities to a Marshall defense that has produced 28 turnovers this season behind defensive end Vinny Curry, the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year who has 11 sacks, 21 tackles for a loss, six forced fumbles and three blocked kicks.

Marshall is going to need its defense first and foremost to stand on its head in tonight’s match-up if it wants to stay competitive against an improving Golden Panthers offense, which no doubt will look to take advantage of the Thundering Herd’s inability to stop well-balanced offenses. Despite getting wins in 4 of the last 6 contests to squeak into bowl eligibility, there is a disturbing trend with Marshall when it comes to defending against good quarterbacks with either talented receivers and/or rushers, as is evident in the two blowout losses late in the year to Houston and Tulsa whereby the Thundering Herd gave up an average of over 650 yards of total offense and more than 60 points per game. Without an offense that can keep up the scoring pace (the Herd is averaging just 22 points per game on offense, while allowing over 30 points to opposing offenses), Marshall has had to rely on an opportunistic defense to be the factor in close games (BTW they are 5-0 in contests decided by a touchdown or less), something they likely can’t count on tonight with a Florida Int’l team that knows how to protect the rock. Therefore, Marshall simply must find a way to get more consistent play from their starting freshman quarterback Rakeem Cato (1833 yards, 13 TDs, 10 INTs), who has recently shown improvement during a 341 yard, 2 TD performance with no picks against East Carolina in the last game of the season, but has yet to string together back-to-back solid performances. In addition, for Marshall to be competitive in tonight’s game they’ll need to spread the wealth around, find a way to generate a rushing game with the backfield tandem of Tron Martinez and Travon Van (which could be tough against FIU’s 23rd-ranked rush defense), and keep the Golden Panthers from finding a groove with Kedrick Rhodes in their own ground game.

Betting Lines for Florida International vs. Marshall at Intertops Sportsbook

Intertops Sportsbook is our destination for online sports betting on tonight’s match-up in the Beef ‘O’ Brady Bowl, and checking out the betting lines at this long-standing sports betting institution we find Florida Int’l as the favorite to win on the money line with -190 odds coming in. Marshall is surprisingly just a +165 underdog for tonight’s match-up, and gets 4.5 points against the spread to play with at -115 odds. However, with -105 odds on FIU to cover the 4.5 points on the spread, this could be the most conservative bet heading into tonight’s match-up, but also look out for the over/under at 48.5 points to get busted especially if Marshall’s defense can’t contain T.Y. Hilton and Kedrick Rhodes at the same time. For finding the best wagers for tonight’s match-up, you can always be sure to check out the aggregated betting lines across some of the best online sportsbooks reviewed here.

Our Pick To Win:

Florida International has the balanced offense and solid defense to win tonight’s Beef ‘O’ Brady Bowl against an improving but otherwise lackluster Marshall team that has not been able to shut down good offenses despite the presence of the game-changing Vinny Curry on defense. The Thundering Herd will struggle to contain the rushing game of FIU, which will allow QB Wesley Carroll to make bombs downfield to T.Y. Hilton, and give the Golden Panthers their second bowl win in two years, and continued to bolster the notoriety of the newest football program in Florida. The Golden Panthers’ defense also should be able to contain the Thundering Herd without too much trouble, and force the young freshman quarterback Rakeem Cato to make a few critical mistakes that will quickly turn the tide of the ball game in their favor. Though the betting lines put this game at a pretty close 4 points against the spread, we’re expecting FIU to dominate all aspects of the game from start to finish and pull out a victory by a score of 35-17 in front of what should be a very biased Florida crowd.

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