Posted by Adam Jacobi
FIU WILL WIN IF: T.Y. Hilton has one more big game in him. Hilton, the multi-talented wideout and return specialist, caught 64 passes for 950 yards and seven touchdowns in 2011. Once you add in rushes and returns, Hilton registered 104 total touches for 1749 all-purpose yards and eight scores. That works out to 8.66 touches, 145.75 yards, and .66 TDs per game for the electric senior.
In FIU's four losses, however, Hilton's production drops considerably; he touched the ball 5.75 times for 102 all-purpose yards per game, and scored two touchdowns in those four games. In fact, Hilton's stats were substantially lower in every single measurable category in those four losses except kick return average; there, Hilton's YPR jumps all the way from 32.0 to 33.75. So the message here is clear: get the ball in Hilton's hands, or leave the Beef O'Brady's Bowl disappointed. And nobody likes to associate Beef O'Brady's with disappointment, now, do they?
MARSHALL WILL WIN IF: Vinny Curry gets loose. Marshall may be 6-6, but there are a few pretty decent wins hidden in there: 26-20 over Southern Miss, 17-14 at Louisville, and even 24-20 over a 4-8 Rice team that faced a ferocious schedule. One of those most consistent factors in those wins -- and just about all of them -- was Curry. Curry trailed only Houston's Sammy Brown in sacks and tackles for loss in the C-USA this year; indeed, Brown and Curry were 1-2 in the nation in tackles for loss. What's more, in the Herd's six wins, Curry was even more dominant: 13.5 TFLs, 9.0 sacks, four forced fumbles, and two blocked kicks. Those rates -- 2.25 TFL and 1.50 sacks per game -- would be enough to lead the nation if he had maintained them in the Herd's six losses as well. He didn't, of course, so it's going to be crucial for Marshall to get that level of production out of its senior DE one last time.
X-FACTOR: Mario Cristobal's status. FIU's celebrated coach, who has essentially been the architect of Golden Panther football, has been mentioned as a potential candidate for multiple BCS-level football programs. And while it's unlikely that Cristobal would take a new job that would require him to abandon his team in the 24 hours leading up to the Beef O'Brady's Bowl, it is also the case that Cristobal's time spent in consideration of a new coaching destination is time not spent on game preparation for the Marshall game. Exactly how much effect the distraction of job talks has on FIU's preparation -- if any at all -- remains to be seen, but FIU fans and administrators looking forward to the Golden Panthers' second straight bowl win can't be thrilled that Cristobal is conducting these talks before his team's season is officially over.
Check out all the latest updates on FIU and Marshall right up until kickoff at the Beef O'Brady's Bowl Pregame.
Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview