The most powerful aspect of the Bahamas Bowl on Thursday might not be a player from Florida International or Toledo, but the high winds that are forecast for the game on the Caribbean island. Conditions are calling for a steady 20 mph breeze, with gusts up to 40 mph.
Toledo opened as a six-point favorite, but the line has dropped to 4.5. The over/under, though, has plummeted. It opened at 67 and has dropped to 59.
The wind should wreak havoc on the passing game for both the Panthers and the Rockets, but while both programs have efficient quarterbacks, the ground game is where the emphasis might be due to the weather.
If that is the case, it would favor Toledo. The Rockets, who finished the season 7-5, averaged 223.6 rushing yards a game. They use several tailbacks to punish opposing defenses. Bryant Koback led the team with 875 yards and 13 scores.
One player that won’t be helping the team is Art Thompkins. The senior is leaving the program as a graduate transfer and will not be playing in the postseason game. He played in all 12 of Toledo’s games and had 563 yards and six touchdowns. He also caught 15 passes for 139 yards.
Run by Committee
Fortunately the team is deep at the position. Shakif Seymour, Ronnie Jones, and Nevone McCrimmon will all probably see action in the backfield at the bowl game.
They will be attacking a FIU team that ranked 97th in the country in rushing defense. The Golden Panthers allowed five yards a carry, averaging 198.4 yards a game. That could be ominous since the Rockets were ranked 25th in rushing, averaging 5.3 yards a carry.
FIU Hoping for Pass Attack
If the winds do die down, Toledo will probably still stick with the run, since the passing game has been so inconsistent. Quarterback Eli Peters will be facing the No. 21st ranked passing defense, and he hasn’t proven that he can be totally effective in the pocket.
The Panthers allowed 2,259 yards passing and 16 touchdowns, but countered that with 17 interceptions and 20 sacks.
FIU’s passing game would normally feast on Toledo’s porous pass defense, but again the wind may play a big part on how successful quarterback James Morgan will be. The Rockets are ranked 102nd in pass defense, allowing and average of 257.8 yards per game and seven yards per pass. They also gave up 19 touchdowns.
Morgan is a very savvy signal caller. The junior threw for 2,727 yards this season, including 26 touchdowns and seven interceptions. His last game, was statistically his worst, however. He threw two interceptions for the first time all year against Marshall in the Conference USA championship game. The Panthers lost, 28-25.
Can Morgan bounce back from that performance? In the team’s four losses this season, Morgan came back the next game stronger. When they lost their opener to Indiana, the following week he threw for 251 yards and three touchdowns. The same thing happened after losses to Miami and Florida Atlantic. Morgan threw for multiple touchdowns in the following game.