This is a special preview of the Beef O'Brady's Bowl as former FIU and current San Diego Chargers defensive lineman Antwan Barnes joins me at the end of this post for his prediction to tonight's game. I will have an in-depth interview with El Monstruo Antwan (right) on the blog later this week.
By the way, what a season Antwan is having with a team-leading 11 sacks. AB is not on the Pro Bowl ballot, but can still make the AFC team if the players vote him in.
FIU takes on Marshall in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl tonight at Tropicana Field in the Panthers second consecutive bowl game. From all indications, the Panthers are a loose, confident bunch heading into this game. Marshall is coming off a bowl-clinching win against East Carolina.
One thing about both the Panthers and the Herd is they both have plenty of team speed with Marshall having 29 players from Florida on its roster. However, the Panthers seem to have the more talented team overall. Now it's a matter of execution. If FIU plays like it can, then the Panthers win this game a lot more comfortable than last season's game-winning, game-ending field goal at the Pizza Bowl against Toledo. Not saying it will be a blowout. Antwan will make the prediction at the end of this post.
Despite having All-American defensive lineman Vinny Curry, the Herd's defense gives up more than 400 yards of offense and more than 30 points a game. With a healthy Kedrick Rhodes, Darriet Perry and Jeremiah Harden, who had a solid game in the regular season finale against Middle Tennessee, the Panthers should be able to run the ball. This will be T.Y. Hilton's final college game before going to work on Sundays. Expect some more highlights from No. 4 and look for the Panthers to get him the ball as much as possible in this nationally televised game. This photo below of Goodbye by Sam Lewis was on the front of ESPN.com this morning.
Defensively, the Panthers have to get past a stout Herd offensive line. Marshall quarterback and former FIU recruit Rakeem Cato has played well in his freshman season. Cato does not run the ball like some of the mobile quarterbacks that have given FIU trouble before, but he can throw the ball, especially to 6-3 receiver Aaron Dobson. Marshall can also run the ball with the dual threat of Tron Martinez and Travon Van. The Panthers' challenge will be stopping the Herd run and not letting Cato get comfortable in the pocket slinging the ball.
Like in most football games, special teams will be big in tonight's game. Marshall has blocked six kicks and the Panthers have been solid in this department this season. I'm sure the Herd will kick away from T.Y. So maybe Colt Anderson takes a pooch kick 60 yards for a touchdown. Why not?
"It will be a close game. These are two good teams, but FIU is too talented on offense and defense. FIU will play a complete game tonight and play together as one. But since it is a bowl game, it should be close. FIU wins 27-21."