The Toledo Rockets (7-5) are set to take on the FIU Panthers in the 2018 Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl. Kickoff is set for 12:30 EST on Friday, December 21st at Thomas Robinson Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN.

Oddsmakers opened this thing up at Toledo -6 and there’s where it still sits at most places. I do see at least one book out there that has the Rockets down to -5.5. The total for this contest is 64 points.

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2018 Bahamas Bowl Vegas Spread Preview: Toledo vs FIU

As expected given what Toledo lost from last year’s 11-win team, the Rockets took a big step back in 2018. In fact, Toledo had to win their final 2 games of the regular-season just to make a bowl. While they were 5-3 in MAC play (T-2nd West), it was the first time in 5 years they failed to win at least 6 conference games.

While head coach Jason Candle is only in his 3rd year coaching the team, this will be his 4th time leading the Rockets in a bowl game, as he was the interim head coach for their bowl game after Matt Campbell left back in 2015. That’s actually the only bowl game Toledo has won under Candle. The two losses both came to Appalachian State, who were matchup in the 2016 Camellia Bowl and 2017 Dollar General Bowl.

As for Florida International, the Panthers exceeded expectations this year. FIU figured to struggle with just 11 starters returning and having to replace the school’s #2 all-time passer in Alex McGough and the #1 all-time rusher in Alex Gardner. Many had them picked to finish near the bottom of the C-USA standings, but they instead went 6-2 and if not for a 28-25 loss to Marshall in the final game of the year, they would have won the C-USA East and played in the title game.

It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Panthers over-achieved, given they got as good a coach as you will find in a small conference with Butch Davis. Last year, FIU fell 28-3 to Temple in the Gasparilla Bowl. Davis is still 5-3 overall as a head coach in bowl games.

Bahamas Bowl Free Betting Pick & Predictions: FIU +6

My early lean here would have to be to grab the points with FIU. I just don’t get this line at all, as I think this is a very evenly matched game and I actually think the Panthers win this game outright.

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I just think Toledo came into this season way overvalued and it showed in their 2-5 ATS record thru their first 7 games. I again think the books are shading the line heavily in their favor. I get the Rockets played the tougher schedule, but they didn’t really compete against the better teams they played. They lost by 25 at home to a Miami team that turned out to not be very good, they lost by 22 at Fresno State, by 14 at home to Buffalo, and by 23 at Northern Illinois.

The defense was not good in any of those step-up games, allowing 49 to Miami, 49 to Fresno State, 31 to Buffalo and 38 to Northern Illinois. I don’t see them slowing down an FIU team that scored at least 28 in 8 of their 12 games, hitting 35 or more in 4 of their last 6.

Note that FIU played Miami on the road and only lost by 14,  They also were competitive in a loss at home to Indiana. I just think they will not only be the more motivated team, but they are also the better coached team. I also think there’s a bit of an edge for them having to make the short flight to the Bahamas. Will be a lot harder for the Rockets to adjust to the heat and that’s more bad news for a defense that already figures to have their hands full. Give me the Panthers +6!