FIU and Arkansas State will square off in the Camellia Bowl in one of the most intriguing matchups during the first weekend of bowl season, particularly considering how strongly the teams closed the seasons. There's also a bit of history between these two as they used to share the Sun Belt Conference before the Panthers left in 2013. The RedWolves hold a 6-2 advantage in the all-time series.
The Panthers boast one of Conference USA's best defenses and a quarterback in James Morgan who will be playing his final game after a successful career. The Red Wolves are led by star wide receiver Omar Bayless and a dynamic offense that will be quite a challenge for the Panthers to slow down.
So who wins this battle of former conference rivals in Alabama? Let's take a closer look at the matchup and make some expert picks both straight up and against the spread.
FIU: The Panthers stunned the world in late November when they became bowl eligible with a win over Miami (FL). How did they do it? A pass defense that leads Conference USA at 178.5 yards per game and only 29 passing plays of 20 or more yards. They limit the big play defensively and Morgan -- who has tossed just three interceptions in 12 games -- doesn't dig holes that the Panthers can't claw out of. It should be a tremendous matchup with contrasting styles against an Arkansas State team that can test them in a variety of ways.
Arkansas State: If you haven't watched Bayless, pull up a chair, grab a beverage and get ready for the show. The senior has 1,473 yards receiving and 16 touchdowns on the season, and has had the second-best receiving season in the country behind LSU's Ja'Marr Chase. Freshman Layne Hatcher stepped in at quarterback and tossed 23 touchdowns to nine interceptions in nine games. He has topped the 200-yard mark in seven of his eight starts, and has become one of the budding stars of the Sun Belt. Defense? Arkansas State isn't very interested in that. So expect some fireworks in Montgomery.
Event: Camellia Bowl
Date: Saturday, Dec. 21 | Time: 5:30 p.m. ET
Location: Cramton Bowl -- Montgomery, Alabama
TV: ESPN | Live stream: WatchESPN.com
Camellia Bowl prediction, picks
In a game like this, it's always best to side with the best player on the field. That player will be Bayless, and he will earn the Red Wolves a win in a predictable thriller inside the Cramton Bowl. This one will go back and forth with FIU's offense having enough success against the porous Red Wolves defense. In the end, Bayless will make a play or two late in order to secure the win. Pick: Arkansas State (-2.5)
So who wins FIU vs. Arkansas State in the Camellia Bowl? And which side of the spread is hitting well over 50 percent of the time? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the spread to back on Saturday, all from the advanced model that has returned almost $4,000 on its top-rated picks.