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Marshall vs. FIU

St Petersburg Bowl

12/20/11

Florida International takes on Marshall in the St. Petersburg Bowl at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg Florida on Tuesday December 20th . 8-4 Florida International opened as a -4.5 favorite over 6-6 Marshall at most sportsbooks and has been bet down to -3.5. The total is 48.5 points.

This is another game where we have to address the schedule strength difference between the two teams. Marshall played West Virginia, Southern Miss, Virginia Tech, Louisville and Houston, beating Southern Miss 26-20, the eventual Conference USA champ. Florida International played Louisville and Duke, losing to Duke. As far as common opponents go, both teams beat Louisville while Florida International beat UCF and Marshall lost to UCF.

We won't spend too much time on this game as we have no interest from a betting standpoint. It's one of those "one too many" bowls in our opinion. When we look at yards per points number here, Marshall has some very bad numbers, especially if we break it down by road games only, while Florida International has very good numbers, even better if we look at just the road games. To put it in perspective, if we used yards per points numbers for road games only to make a line, FIU would be a 12 point favorite. That's where schedule strength adjustments need to be made. Our numbers show Marshall as having played a schedule that was about 10 points more difficult. The would bring FIU down to a 2 point fav.

Our score prediction model, which does take schedule strength into account, still likes Florida International to win and cover, predicting a 24-18 final score, which would also suggest that the under 48.5 is worth a look.

Our final conclusion? We see a close game as long as Marshall comes in motivated to play the game. We know FIU will be motivated coming off their best season ever. What better way to cap your best season ever than with a win in a bowl game? They'll also have the crowd advantage, with what little crowd ends up attending, as it's close to home.

Take away the games against the big time teams like Virginia Tech for Marshall and we see a team of similar capabilities to FIU. Or, put another way, if FIU played Marshalls schedule, would they still be 8-4? No. These two teams performances against the two common opponents, and their games against similar levels of competition, suggest this one can come down to the wire, in which case, we prefer to be taking points. In the "real world", we'll be passing this game and likely won't even watch it. But our best guess is Marshall +3.5

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