The Florida International Golden Panthers hope to build some momentum heading into bowl season as they host the UMass Minutemen. Game time is set for noon EST on Saturday, December 2 at FIU Stadium in Miami. 

Oddsmakers list Florida International as 1.5-point favorites in this game with an over/under of 55.5 points. Click here for a full list of Week 14 betting odds and links to game previews.

UMass vs Florida International Vegas Betting Line & Game Preview

The Panthers have already secured their first bowl game since 2011 in the first year under new head coach Butch Davis. FIU enters this game 7-4 overall and 5-3 in Conference USA, giving them second place in the C-USA East division. The Panthers stumbled a bit down the stretch, losing two of their last three games. But they beat Western Kentucky 41-17 last week to get back on track.

Meanwhile, UMass will have to wait at least one more year to make it to their first bowl game. The Minutemen enter this game at 4-7, so they’ll fall short of bowl eligibility even with a win. On the bright side, UMass is in the process of finishing the season on a high note. The Minutemen have won four of their last five games, with their only loss in that span being a competitive game against Mississippi State.

These two teams met last September in Amherst, with UMass winning 21-13. However, both programs have come a long way since then, so it’ll be interesting to see how they match up with one another more than a year later.

College Football Free Pick Against the Spread: Florida International -1.5

My early lean in this game is toward Florida International. I will admit that UMass took some big steps forward the second half of the season. But I think the Panthers are a little better and a little more athletic. With only a point and a half to cover, I like my chances with FIU at home.

To be fair, UMass has been competitive with every team they’ve played this year, including a pair of SEC teams. But I’m still not impressed by some of the wins they’ve collected this year. The Minutemen’s last two wins have come against Maine, an FCS school, and BYU, who had a disastrous 3-9 campaign this year.

Click on the link for more free NCAA football picks against the spread and total.

Of course, Florida International has been able to pad their record with wins over teams like Rice and Charlotte, both one-win teams. But the Golden Panthers have managed to beat some quality teams this year, including Marshall and Western Kentucky, two legitimate mid-major programs. Wins like that give me a little more faith in FIU to take care of business against UMass.

My biggest concern with UMass in this game is on defense. They’ve struggled on that side of the all at times, putting themselves in a shootout against mediocre competition. That puts a little too much pressure on the offense, specifically quarterback Andrew Ford. 

The Minutemen have gotten away with that a couple times this year. But against the type of athletes on the FIU defense, I’m not sure the Minutemen can keep up if this becomes a high-scoring affair. To be fair, the Panthers aren’t that explosive offensively. But they have an experienced quarterback in senior Alex McGough, so I have reason to believe FIU will move the ball with some consistency against the UMass defense.

I do expect a competitive game between these two teams. But with seven wins already this season, FIU is a little further along in their growth as a program right now than UMass. With such a small spread to cover, I’ll take my chances with the home team.