2018 Bahamas Bowl - Toledo Moderately Favored Against FIU

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D.S. Williamson

December 20th, 2018

Conference-USA squad Florida International heads to Nassau in the Bahamas to battle tough MAC team Toledo in the 2018 Bahamas Bowl this Friday on Dec. 21. Both FIU and Toledo had successful seasons even though neither won their conference.

Florida International finished behind Middle Tennessee State in the Conf-USA East Division. The Panthers haven’t lost two games in a row this season. That bodes well for FIU because they head to the 2018 Bahamas Bowl having dropped a game 25-28 in their last outting to Marshall.

Like most seasons, the Toledo Rockets leaned on a high-scoring offense that amassed close to 450 yards each game. The Rockets averaged 225 passing and 224 rushing. Per the odds makers, Toledo’s balance gives them an edge on December 21. The Rockets are -4.5 favorites.

Will Toledo prove the odds makers right? Or, will FIU return to their winning form?

BAHAMAS BOWL FOOTBALL BETTING Florida International Panthers vs Toledo Rockets Friday, December 21st – Thomas Robin Stadium – 12:30pm ET Odds: Toledo -4.5 (68.5)

FIU Will Lean on Underrated Defense

Most teams that find success in non-Power 5 conferences do so by leaning on their offenses. That’s not the Florida International Panthers. FIU managed to lose only 4 games this season by relying on a top defense. The Panthers were so good that opponents averaged less than 200 yards rushing or passing. Florida International was 58th in the nation with just 386.7 total yards against, while yielding just 24.7 points on defense.

The Panthers used their stingy unit to cover in losses to Indiana and Miami and to trounce Old Dominion, Western Kentucky, UT-San Antonio, and Charlotte in 4 road wins. A solid +9.9 point differential helps in that regard, especially when facing a modest 5.5 line as an underdog in the 2018 Bahamas Bowl.

In addition to the underrated defenders, FIU heads to paradise with only OT Mershawn Miller listed as injured. This team is better than their reputation, and this betting line, would indicate.

Toledo Hope to Continue Late Season Surge

The Rockets didn’t do enough during the regular season to win the MAC West Division, but they did impress by winning 4-of-5 to end the season. Not only did Toledo win those 4 games, they also covered in all 4. The lone loss happened to the Northern Illinois Huskies, the eventual MAC Champions.

Toledo hopes that they can carry the late season surge into their battle with Florida International on Friday. The Rockets average 41 points per. Their strategy in the Bahamas Bowl will be to force the pace.

When the Rockets can force opponents to play their game, they can demolish anyone. Toledo toppled a lot of mid-level teams including a 51-24 win over Western Michigan, 45-13 against Ball State, beating Kent State 56-34 on the road, and taking down Central Michigan 51-13 in their final regular season matchup.

The problem is that Toledo doesn't always have the ability to take control of the game in this regard. Northern Illinois, like FIU, leans on its defense. The Rockets had to punt 5 times. Even though they didn’t lose a fumble and beat the Huskies in time of possession, Northern Illinois won 38-13.

Bahamas Bowl Betting Trends

This is a big test for the Toledo Rockets, and early action went away from them dropping this line from -6.0 to -4.5 pretty quickly.

It helps that the Panthers are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 and 8-3 ATS in their last 11 following a straight up loss. The Rockets are 10-1 ATS in their last 11 after allowing less than 275 total yards in their previous and 7-2 ATS in their last 9 after accumulating more than 450 total yards in their previous.

Because the 2018 Bahamas Bowl appears so competitive, it makes sense to lean towards the team getting points. Florida International should slow down the Rockets. If they force punts the way the Huskies did, the Panthers will have a shot to win this straight up. This is a tough matchup for Toledo, and the adjusted line suggests that the Panthers have a shot at not only covering, but taking this one straight up by putting a vice grip on their opponents.

2018 Bahamas Bowl Betting Free Pick: FIU +4.5