The Florida International Golden Panthers are set to battle the Marshall Thundering Herd in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl on Tuesday night, and it's a game the young program cannot afford to lose.
Last year, the Golden Panthers won their first ever bowl game, and winning in postseason play in back-to-back years will greatly benefit FIU moving forward.
FIU started its football program in 2002, and this season the Golden Panthers recorded their best season ever at 8-4.
For the first eight years of playing college football, the Golden Panthers always had a losing record. In fact, they even went 0-12 the year before Mario Cristobal took over as head coach. Cristobal had some rough times, but he's done a tremendous job turning this program around.
Who will win?
With two consecutive winning records, FIU continues to improve, but it won't matter as much if the Golden Panthers lose to Marshall in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl.
The Golden Panthers have to capitalize on the position they're in, as it could have a big impact in recruiting. Playing in Miami is very appealing to some high school stars, but only if the team is doing well.
When talking to reporters leading up to the game, athletic director Pete Garcia took a shot at the current state of football in Florida.
"At 8-4, we don't only have the best record in FIU history, we have the best record in the state of Florida. It's a natural step for this football team to go back to a second straight bowl game."
Florida, Florida State and Miami have all had disappointing seasons, meaning FIU has to take advantage of this by winning its bowl game in impressive fashion.
Playing in the national spotlight can either devastate a smaller team's future or help it significantly.
Senior playmakers T.Y. Hilton and Wesley Carroll will do their part to make sure the Golden Panthers stay competitive in this game. Hilton, the team's leading receiver, and Carroll, the starting quarterback, have been a big reason for FIU's recent success, as well as running back Kedrick Rhodes.
Their competition wasn't too difficult at the end of the season, but this team has the experience to not get too worked up about Tuesday's bowl game.
In the end, the Golden Panthers need to dominate in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl because it will work wonders for the future of their program.