NCAA Football

Little Caesars Bowl Preview: Florida International vs. Toledo

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Florida International vs. Toledo

Sunday, December 26, 2010 8:30 PM ET ESPN

Laying the scene

The Florida International football program will make its first ever bowl appearance in its ninth year of existence and sixth in the FBS. This marks their first ever non-losing season for the Golden Panthers at 6-6 and their first Sun Belt Championship (shared with Troy whom they defeated in the regular season). Whereas FIU will make its first bowl appearance ever, the Rockets will make their first appearance in the postseason since beating UTEP in the GMAC Bowl in 2005. Toledo has surprised a few people this season, losing just four times (three losses to bowl-eligible teams) after dropping nine in 2008 and seven in 2009. These teams have met twice before in 2008 and 2009 with the road team winning both games.ulsa 39.67 points per game, this one promises to be a treat for anybody who likes offense. Hawaii leads the all-time series against their former-WAC rival Tulsa 5-3.

What Florida International has to do to win

Get the playmakers involved early. Sun Belt Player of the Year T.Y. Hilton has caught 56 passes for 816 yards and four touchdowns this season; has rushed 26 times for 278 yards and four touchdowns; has returned 26 punts for 126 yards (seven fair catches); and has returned 24 kicks for 659 yards and a touchdown (27.5 yard average), his third consecutive season with a kick return for a touchdown. The Panthers will lean on Hilton to give them good field position on special teams and make an impact in the passing game. The Panthers also have two running backs that have played well. Darriet Perry has rushed for 707 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, while Darrian Mallary has rushed for 669 yards and two touchdowns. Three others have rushed for more than 275 yards.

What Toledo has to do to win 

Toledo has forced 33 turnovers this season. If they're able to take the ball away from FIU to keep them from getting anything going and keeping the momentum on the Rockets sideline, they'll be in good position to pull off the bowl win. Like the Panthers, the Rockets have a WR/KR that can do some damage. Eric Page has racked up more than 1,000 receiving yards in each of his two collegiate seasons and has eight touchdowns this season. He's returned 27 punts for just 31 yards (11 fair catches), but he has three kick return touchdowns and has racked up 794 yards on 27 kick return attempts. Like Hilton for the Golden Panthers, Page will be looked upon to give the Rockets good field position and break a big play or two on offense.

The call

Florida International. If the Panthers manage to avoid turnovers, they'll win this game. Toledo has struggled in games in which they've struggled to force turnovers. The Rockets have lost their starting quarterback Austin Dantin, but Terrance Owens has played well since taking over. In the final four games of the season (starting the final three), he's thrown for 949 yards and 11 touchdowns to just two interceptions. The quarterback change may not impact the outcome too much, but if the Rockets are unable to force turnovers they'll struggle in this game. - Danny Hobrock

Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.

Email Danny at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at DannyHobrock

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