Florida International Panthers at Arkansas State Red Wolves
Saturday, December 21, 2019 at 5:30 PM (Cramton Bowl)
Arkansas State -4.5; Total 62.5 Click to Get Latest Betting Odds
Florida International will look for a win to finish the season above .500 when the Panthers (6-6) take on the Arkansas State Red Wolves (7-5) in the Camellia Bowl taking place Dec. 21 at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Ala. This is the third straight year that Florida International has gone to a bowl game and the ninth in a row for Arkansas State.
Florida International has gone 1-1 in its current bowl game streak with a 35-32 win over Toledo at the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl last year and a 28-3 loss to Temple two seasons ago at the Gasparilla Bowl. The Panthers also had the biggest win in school history just two games ago when they knocked off crosstown rival Miami at Marlins Park, 30-24. Despite the relative success, FIU finished the season losing three of five games including a 37-7 loss to eventual Conference USA champion Florida Atlantic and a 50-17 loss to Middle Tennessee.
FIU finished the season with a 30-27 overtime loss to Marshall in a game that the Panthers led 21-17 in the fourth quarter. After a Marshall touchdown, Jose Borregales kicked a field goal with 21 seconds to go in regulation to send it to overtime. Borregales kicked another field goal in overtime, but Marshall scored on a one-yard Brenden Knox touchdown run to end the game. Quarterback James Morgan completed 21-of-37 passes for 236 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Tony Gaiter caught nine of those passes for 107 yards and a touchdown while Austin Maloney caught three balls for 83 yards. Anthony Jones gained 52 yards on the ground on 17 carries. He also scored a touchdown.
Morgan finished the regular season completing 58.0 percent of his passes for 2,248 yards and 13 touchdowns with just three interceptions. Jones was the Panthers’ leading rusher gaining 802 yards on 166 carries for a 4.8 yards per carry average and nine touchdowns. Napoleon Maxwell also gained 609 yards on the ground with eight touchdowns. Gaiter and Shemar Thornton caught 49 and 48 passes on the season for FIU. Gaiter ended the year with 607 receiving yards with four touchdowns and Thornton added 582 receiving yards with five touchdowns.
Arkansas State has now reached a bowl game nine straight seasons and has gone 3-5 in the previous eight bowls. The Red Wolves have lost their bowl games the past two seasons, dropping a 16-13 overtime game to Nevada in the NOV Home Loans Arizona Bowl last season, and a 35-30 loss to Middle Tennessee in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl two years ago. Arkansas State ended the year strong after starting the season with a 3-4 record, finishing the season winning four of five games.
A 34-30 loss to South Alabama, a team that had lost its nine previous games, ended the season on a down note in what was otherwise a successful month-plus of the season. The team had a big offensive day, however, in the loss. Quarterback Layne Hatcher completed 23-of-38 passes for 342 yards and two touchdowns, while Kirk Merritt caught nine of those passes for 121 yards. Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year Omar Bayless caught four balls for 98 yards and a touchdown, and Jamal Jones carried the ball 16 times for 61 yards.
Hatcher has been an efficient quarterback all season, completing 68.3 percent of his passes for 2,553 yards and 23 touchdowns. He also has thrown nine interceptions. Bayless earned his player of the year honor by catching 84 passes for 1,473 yards and 16 touchdowns, while Jonathan Adams caught 58 balls for 788 yards and four touchdowns. Merritt caught 11 touchdown passes with 763 yards receiving. Marcel Murray was the team’s leading rusher, gaining 782 yards for six touchdowns.
Neither team finished the season strong, with FIU losing three of five and the Red Wolves dropping a game to a team that had lost nine in a row. But there are several key stats that might make this game incredibly interesting. First of all, Arkansas State is one of the worst offensive teams in the country, ranking 127 out of 130 FBS teams allowing 481.2 yards per game, so one thing in certain -- FIU is going to be able to score, and will likely score more than the 26.5 points per game it averaged during the regular season.
In addition, the Red Wolves feature one of the country’s elite passing attacks, ranking 14th in FBS in passing offense averaging 305.3 yards per game. But the Panthers boast the sixth-best passing defense, allowing just 178.5 yards per game. So Arkansas State’s offense will surely continue to succeed, but probably not at the rate that it got used to during the season. When a game is supposed to be close, it’s best to look for which team will be helped in the matchups, and that team is absolutely FIU. So take the Panthers plus the points to take a win in the Camellia Bowl.