Dec. 26, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Nation blogger Andrea Adelson’s take: Not sure this was the first preference for the Panthers, who are making their first bowl appearance after winning a share of the Sun Belt championship -- also a school first. FIU would have preferred to play closer to home in either Mobile or New Orleans, but when you are the conference newbie with a relatively small fan base, sometimes things don’t go your way.
Still, this is a tremendous accomplishment for coach Mario Cristobal, in his fourth season with the program. FIU has notched the most wins in school history and will be going for the first winning season in school history in the bowl game. The defense has been outstanding, and kept them in games early on against AQ teams -- in fact FIU came oh-so-close to upsetting Rutgers and Texas A&M. T.Y. Hilton is one of the best all-purpose threats in the conference, so Toledo should keep an eye on him.
It was a resurgent season for the Rockets as well, in Year 2 of the Tim Beckman era. Toledo is making its first bowl appearance since 2005. Three of its four losses this season were to bowl-bound teams: Boise State, Northern Illinois and Arizona. The Rockets have played the past several games with redshirt freshman Terrance Owens at quarterback in place of injured starter Austin Dantin. Owens has held his own, and it’s unclear whether Dantin will be available for the bowl game. But the key player is Eric Page, MAC Special Teams Player of the Year and first-team wide receiver. Page led the country with three kickoffs returned for touchdowns. Also, Toledo has two of the top eight tacklers in the country in Archie Donald and Dan Molls.