The 2019 Camellia Bowl will feature a matchup between Conference USA and the Sun Belt. The Florida International Panthers (6-6) will take on the Arkansas State Red Wolves (7-5). The teams will have a chance to end their seasons with a win. Here is a preview of the 2019 Camellia Bowl.
Florida International Panthers (6-6)
Florida International had an up-and-down year, which could be a big factor in their .500 record. They got crushed by Middle Tennessee State who finished the season 4-8, but then beat Miami for the first time in program history. They ended the regular season with an overtime loss to a solid Marshall team.
The Panthers rank 60th in total defense, putting them close to the middle of the FBS. Redshirt Senior Sage Lewis totaled 40 solo tackles as well as 40 assists, providing a solid balance to his team’s defense. The linebacker added to those numbers in their last regular-season game against Marshall where he had 15 assists as well as a tackle for loss. He will be someone that FIU would like to see a big game from in this one.
The offense does not have as good of numbers as the defense. The team averages 26.2 points per game, which is 77th in the FBS. They’ve had some quiet games this year, such as when they managed seven points against Florida Atlantic. However, they did manage to rack up 48 points against Charlotte back in October. They’ve used running back Anthony Jones quite a bit this season. The 22-year-old had 802 rushing yards along with 123 receiving yards this season, so he is 75 yards away from reaching 1,000 total yards on the season. That is a very reachable amount of yards against an Arkansas State team that is ranked 122nd in the FBS in rushing defense.
Arkansas State Red Wolves (7-5)
Red Wolves head coach Blake Anderson has this team in another bowl game. After losing his wife to breast cancer close to the beginning of the season, coach Anderson returned to the team quickly. After starting the season 3-4, the Red Wolves bounced back to win four in a row before losing to South Alabama to end the season.
As stated before, Arkansas State ranks a poor 122nd in the FBS in rushing defense. Kent State is the only bowl-eligible team ranked lower in that category. This contributes to their low ranking of 127th in the FBS for total defense, the lowest of any bowl-eligible team. The unit will have some time to prepare for FIU, though, which can help them in the game.
To be 7-5 with that poorly ranked defense, it makes sense that they’re ranked 44th in the FBS in total offense. The offense averaged 432.2 yards per game while the team averaged 33 points per game. Quarterback Layne Hatcher, a transfer from Alabama, threw for 440 yards and four touchdowns against Troy in September as the team won the game 50-43. He has reached 300 yards through the air multiple times this season. Hatcher may not reach 300 passing yards too easily in the Camellia Bowl as FIU ranks sixth in the FBS in passing yards allowed. They may need to use runningbacks Marcel Murray and Jamal Jones in this one. The two running backs both get attempts and could be well rested for this matchup.
If Florida International can stop Layne Hatcher from having a big day through the air, that could be a huge factor in this game. Another factor will be Arkansas State’s defense. They’ve been lackluster this season, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be ready for a bowl game.
Final Score Prediction: Florida International Panthers 35 Arkansas State Red Wolves 30
Feature Image Courtesy of ESPN Events.