Who: Florida International (8-4) vs. Toledo (7-5)
What: Bahamas Bowl
When: 12:30 p.m. ET, Friday, December 21
Where: Thomas Robinson Stadium, Nassau
Spread: Toledo -6.5
How to watch: ESPN, WatchESPN
Florida International Head Coach Butch Davis has led the Golden Panthers to an 8-4 record in the regular season in each of his first two years in Miami. They lost to Temple in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl last season and now they’ll get another shot at a bowl win against Toledo.
A win would give FIU its first nine-win season since joining the FBS ranks in 2004. The program won a total of nine games in its first four FBS seasons from 2004 to 2007.
The Golden Panthers finished a game behind Middle Tennessee in the Conference USA East division. A 28-25 loss to Marshall in the regular season finale cost FIU a chance at playing for the C-USA title.
Two of Florida International’s four losses were in competitive games against Power Five opponents Indiana (38-28) and Miami (FL) (31-17).
Toledo has seemingly been a perennial bowl team this decade with eight bowl appearances in the last nine seasons, and the Rockets have won at least seven games every season in that stretch. Historically, they’ve won nearly two-thirds of their bowl games with a 10-7 record all-time. This is Toledo’s first trip to the Bahamas Bowl.
Like Florida International, Toledo finished in second place in its division, one game behind division winner Northern Illinois. Although unlike the Golden Panthers, the Rockets didn’t beat their division champion head-to-head. With the exception of a 28-26 loss at Eastern Michigan, all of Toledo’s losses were by at least 14 points.
The Rockets pack a punch on offense, where they rank 17th nationally according to Football Outsiders. They average 41.1 points per game, good for 11th in the country, and they’re in the top 25 in rushing yards per game and plays from scrimmage of at least 10 yards.
On the other side of the ball, Toledo could make FIU’s life miserable on offense. You could argue the strength of FIU’s offense is the ability to extend drives with a 45 percent third-down conversion rate and a 66 percent success rate on fourth down. But the Rockets excel at limiting their opponents’ conversion attempts on both downs, holding opponents to a 32.2 percent success rate on third-down conversion attempts and 42.8 percent on fourth down. Toledo ranks in the top 30 nationally in both categories.
Here’s a look at some of the statistical strengths and players to watch for each team.
Points per game: 34.6 (28th)
Passing yards per game: 247 (51st)
Third down conversion percentage: 45.6% (20th)
Fourth down conversion percentage: 66.7% (13th)
Turnover margin: +9 (13th)
Opponent red zone conversion percentage: 77.0% (19th)
Players to watch
QB James Morgan — 2,727 passing yards, 65.3%, 26 TD, 7 INT
RB Napoleon Maxwell — 673 rushing yards, 5.6 avg., 7 TD
WR CJ Worton — 36 receptions, 620 receiving yards, 6 TD
LB Sage Lewis — 126 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 9 PBU
Points per game: 41.1 (11th)
Rushing yards per game: 223 (22nd)
Plays of 10+ yards from scrimmage: 201 (23rd)
Points allowed per game: 24.7 (46th)
Passing yards allowed per game: 188 (27th)
Opponent third down conversion percentage: 32.2 (17th)
Opponent fourth down conversion percentage: 42.8% (26th)
Players to watch
RB Bryant Koback — 875 rushing yards, 6.3 avg., 13 TD
WR Diontae Johnson — 663 receiving yards, 7 TD
WR Jon’Vea Johnson — 611 receiving yards, 21.1 avg., 7 TD
LB Richard Olekanma — 78 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks
DE Tuzar Skipper — 52 total tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks