Toledo Rockets (8-4, 7-1 MAC) vs. Florida International Golden Panthers (6-6, 6-2 Sun Belt)
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl
December 26 - 8:30 pm - ESPN
$750,000 payout per team
The Toledo Rockets and the Florida International Golden Panthers will square off in the fourteenth playing of the Little Caesar’s Bowl, formerly the Motor City Bowl. Florida International has never appeared in the Little Caesar’s Bowl, while this is Toledo’s fourth trip to Detroit. The Rockets have won once, in 2001, but lost to Connecticut 39-10 in their most recent appearance, in 2004. Last year’s Little Caesar’s Bowl was a 21-17 victory for the Marshall Thundering Herd over the Ohio Bobcats.
The Rockets and Golden Panthers did not face each other this season, but squared off twice in the two previous years. The series is a draw, with each team winning on the road, most recently a 2009 41-31 Rockets victory in Miami.
Florida International, despite a 6-6 record, enters the bowl as co-champions of the Sun Belt conference thanks to a victory over co-champion Troy. Toledo comes to Detroit as the second place team out of the MAC West Division. The Rockets finished the year 8-4, with a 7-1 conference record. The highlight of their season was a 31-20 road upset of the Purdue Boilermakers. Victory will be decided by whether or not the Toledo defense can handle Florida International’s two-headed rushing attack of Darriet Perry and Darrian Mallary. The Rockets’ defense is led by Archie McDonald, the MAC leader in tackles, and should be up for the task.
- SBN Pittsburgh analysis by Aaron Hawley
SBN PITTSBURGH BOLD PREDICTION - Toledo 17, FIU 13
Aaron - Toledo
Anson - Toledo
Jeff - Toledo
Few expected Toledo or Florida International to make a bowl game, but Tim Beckman and Mario Cristobal had other ideas. Beckman revived a former MAC power in Toledo, which went 7-1 in league play. This fall, Cristobal orchestrated college football's most impressive building job at Florida International, which had gone 9-39 in the past four seasons. -- Adam Rittenberg
You've got to love, LOVE bowl games to make this appointment television. FIU had a great year under head coach Mario Cristobal, who'll be off to bigger and better things soon, while Toledo overcame a bad offense and a slew of injuries to win five of its last six games. It'll be a defensive battle.