Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl: 5 Reasons You Should Watch FIU vs. Marshall

Jamal WilburgCorrespondent IDecember 20, 2011

Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl: 5 Reasons You Should Watch FIU vs. Marshall

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    The Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl is a can't-miss game for this year's bowl season.

    With the 35 bowl games to choose from, there are so many games that don't live up to the pregame hype; and then there are great games each year that fly under the radar. This year's game between the FIU Golden Panthers and Marshall Thundering Herd should be one of those exciting matchups that fly under the radar—if you miss it because it's early on the bowl schedule.

    Here are five reasons you don't want to miss tonight's game.

NFL Prospects

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    In the short four-year history of the Beef 'O' Brady's bowl game, it has seen 50 players go on to play in the NFL. Some of those players include Nate Allen, Devin McCourty, Bilal Powell, Anthony Davis and George Selvie.

    One player from each team to pay attention to in this year's game who could show up in NFL training camps next year are FIU wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and Marshall defensive end Vinny Curry.

Program Looking to Find Lost Success

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    The Marshall Thundering Herd have played in just one bowl game over the past six seasons. This is quite the lengthy drought for a program that played in seven bowl games in a eight-year span from 1996-2004. They won four of their final six games this season in order to become bowl-eligible for the second time in three seasons.

    The team will look to emerge victorious in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl courtesy of the ground attack of Tron Martinez and Travon Van. The two combined for over 1,000 yards rushing this season.

    Freshman quarterback Raheem Cato has also put together an impressive season, throwing for 1,833 yards, 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

    Not to be overlooked is the Thundering Herd's defense led by defensive end Vinny Curry, the 2011 C-USA Defensive Player of the Year. Curry's six forced fumbles helped the defense force a total of 28 turnovers this season.

    This may not be the national championship game, but it is certainly a game with a lot of meaning for the Thundering Herd.

Program on the Rise

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    The FIU Golden Panthers are one win away from at least a share of the best record of all the college football teams in the state. Only the Florida State Seminoles enter bowl season with eight wins on the year.

    That's right—the Golden Panthers have a better record than the Florida Gators, Miami Hurricanes, South Florida Bulls and Central Florida Golden Knights.The team is riding the momentum of back-to-back winning seasons.

    This program has come a long way since starting play in 2002—and FBS play in 2005. Last season they won the Sun Belt Conference. They earned their first bowl victory in their first appearance in Little Caesars Pizza Bowl defeating Toledo 34-32.

    Former FIU receiver Greg Ellingson feels this game means a lot to the program.

    "It shows that we are more than just a rising program," Ellingson said. "We are relevant now. Being the best team in Florida. Also going to a bowl game for the second year in a row means we are becoming consistent with winning. Which is the goal. Making winning a habit."

    The team is not only relevant but talented led by their dynamic receiver T.Y. Hilton. Hilton holds school records for catches, receiving yards and touchdowns. He sits among conference leaders with his 64 receptions, 950 yards and seven touchdowns in 2011.

    FIU also has a playmaker in their running back Kedrick Rhodes. Rhodes 1,121 yards on the ground this season made him the team's first player to eclipse 1,000 yards on the ground since moving up to the FBS.

    This is more than a bowl game for FIU, it is a pivotal moment in this program's development.

Mario Cristobal

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    Mario Cristobal will be a very popular name thrown around in head coaching vacancies throughout the country. The Golden Panthers were 0-12 the season before he took the helm, and just five years later they have put together back-to-back winning seasons and bowl appearances.

    He has recruited talented players over his tenure, including Greg Ellison and current Tampa Bay Buccaneers corner Anthony Gaitor. He also recruited their current standout wide receiver T.Y. Hilton to all come to Miami to play for the up-and-coming FIU program.

    His talents and accomplishments will lead to plenty of rumors, but for now enjoy what he has put together and what his current team has accomplished.

    Cristobal and FIU remind me of when Bowling Green and Utah had Urban Meyer. We could be watching the next great college football coach.

Exciting College Football

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    The main reason to watch tonight's Beef 'O' Brady's bowl is that it should be an exciting game. FIU and Marshall are both playing for pride and respect, which should provide more than enough motivation for the players.

    The matchup of the FIU offense against the Marshall Defense is what I am looking forward to the most. Will T.Y. Hilton be able to continue to be impressive on the field or will Vinny Curry be a dominating force on the defensive line and disrupt the offense.

    If this year's game is anything close to last year's game between Louisville and Southern Mississippi, then college football fans are in for quite a treat.

    Jamal Wilburg is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.

    Follow him on twitter @JWilburg or visit his website