FIU vs. Arkansas State: Camellia Bowl fearless prediction and game preview.
FIU vs. Arkansas State: Camellia Bowl Broadcast
FIU (6-6) vs. Arkansas State (7-5) Game Preview
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Three Reasons Why You Should Watch The Camellia Bowl
– It’s a bit of a surprise, but it’s true. What bowl holds the honor of being the consistently best over the last five years? It’s this, with five straight fantastic games with all of them decided by five points or fewer. Last year, this was among the most entertaining bowls of the bunch with Georgia Southern beating Eastern Michigan 23-21 with a walk-off field goal. No pressure, FIU and Arkansas State, but be awesome. And …
– Arkansas State was part of that run, losing to Middle Tennessee 35-30 in the 2017 Camellia. It’s been a trying year for head coach Blake Anderson and the program – he suffered the tragic loss of his wife just as the season got underway – but the team played well over the second half of the year winning tight game after tight game.
Each of the last four games were decided by seven points or fewer, and last year, it played a thriller of a bowl with a 16-13 overtime loss to Nevada in the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl. 1-4 in bowls, Anderson needs the win.
– It’s only the fifth bowl game in FIU football history, with the first in 2010. The Golden Panthers are 2-2 with a 35-32 win over Toledo in last year’s Bahamas Bowl, and now it’s time for head coach Butch Davis to make the program a consistent bowl star.
He went 4-0 in bowl games at Miami, won one of his three bowls at North Carolina before moving on, and is in his third bowl in three years at FIU. Win, and it’ll be his 12th winning season in his 13th year as a head coach. Lose, and it’ll be just his second losing campaign and his first since his first season with UNC.
CFN Podcast: Camellia Bowl discussion, picks
Why FIU Will Win
– Arkansas State doesn’t play any defense. The Red Wolves generate a little bit of a pass rush, but they don’t stop anyone’s passing game, and they’re miserable against the run – this is an equal opportunity bad D. FIU doesn’t have a consistent offense, but it’s 6-1 this year when it runs for 130 yards or more, and ASU has allowed that many or more in every game but two.
– It’s QB James Morgan’s final game as the FIU quarterback, and he’ll be fired up to be in a big game after not being able to go in last year’s bowl win. He’s been okay, and he can throw for over 200 yards without a problem, but his biggest key is ball security. He has only thrown three picks on the year and just one in the last eight games. Getting plenty of time to work behind a line that doesn’t allow a whole lot of pressure, he should go off.
– The secondary has played as well as any in the country. The run defense will give up big yards, but ASU doesn’t run all that well. FIU has one of the nation’s most efficient pass defenses, picking off 11 passes and allowing only three quarterbacks to hit 60% of their passes. If the ASU isn’t throwing well, it can’t win.
Why Arkansas State Will Win
– For a whole slew of reasons, this will be a well-motivated team. Beyond just wanting to close out a trying season with something special, there’s a disrespect factor in place, especially when it comes to its star receiver, Omar Bayless.
LSU star and Biletnikoff winner Ja’Marr Chase was the best receiver in college football – he put up massive numbers with an SEC schedule – but Bayless wasn’t far behind, catching 84 passes for 1, 473 yards and 16 scores. Not included among the Biletnikoff finalists, this could be his showcase moment.
– Layne Hatcher turned into one of the most fun new passers in college football. The baller of a freshman isn’t all that big, but he can wing it, throwing for 295 yards or more in seven of the eight games he started with two touchdown throws or more in every game. The FIU secondary might be great, but it’s about to be pushed hard – the team is 1-3 when allowing 240 yards or more. Hatcher has yet to throw for fewer than that in any game he started, but …
– The running game has to try to eat. Marcel Murray helped the cause when Hatcher first took over, and the was used less and less as the season went on. When he got 20 carries, though, he was a lock for 100 yards, finishing with a team-high 782 yards and six scores despite missing a chunk of the year. FIU’s run defense was destroyed over the back half of the year, and ASU has to at least try pounding away to give it a shot.