One of the most surprising upsets of the college football season allowed the Florida International Panthers to earn a berth in the Camellia Bowl.
Butch Davis' team earned its sixth victory over the Miami Hurricanes November 23, and that result came in handy after an overtime loss to the Marshall Thundering Herd dropped it to 6-6.
The Arkansas State Red Wolves put together a four-game winning streak in the Sun Belt to extend its bowl appearance streak to nine. Two years ago, Blake Anderson's squad lost the Camellia Bowl to the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders.
FIU is making its third straight postseason appearance under Davis, who has led three programs to bowl victories.
Camellia Bowl Information
Date: Saturday, December 21
Start Time: 5:30 p.m. ET
Odds (via Caesars): Arkansas State (-2.5); Over/Under: 61
The Camellia Bowl's most intriguing matchup pits Arkansas State's passing attack versus FIU's secondary.
Red Wolves wide receiver Omar Bayless, who has 1,473 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns, will be the most-heralded player on the field in Montgomery, Alabama.
Bayless, who ranks in the top 10 in the Football Bowl Subdivision in receptions, yards and end-zone trips, owns a five-game scoring streak.
FIU possesses the sixth-best passing defense that allows 178.5 passing yards per contest. It is the best total of any Group of Five school.
The Panthers have allowed 12 aerial scores and picked off 11 passes, so that would suggest they could frustrate Bayless and Co.
If Arkansas State can't get its star into a rhythm, it can call on Jonathan Adams Jr. and Kirk Merritt, who both have over 750 receiving yards and combined for 15 scores.
The Sun Belt side might be forced to score plenty of times because its rushing defense may not be able to contain FIU's ground attack.
The Red Wolves are one of 10 FBS programs to allow over 220 rushing yards per contest. The Kent State Golden Flashes are the only other squad from that group to qualify for a bowl.
FIU's running backs have scored 22 times, with Anthony Jones and Napoleon Maxwell combining for 17.
With two seniors in the backfield, the Panthers should be able to punish the Red Wolves on every rushing attempt.
Arkansas State earned one more victory in November, but it conceded 135 points in that stretch. FIU allowed 108 points during the same span in which it went 2-2. Based off the recent results, the over appears to be the best wager for the Camellia Bowl.