- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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You saw the preview and prediction, now here are three keys for FIU and Marshall in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl tonight:
1. Block Vinny Curry. There is a reason Curry has become one of the best defensive ends in the nation. "He disrupts offenses completely," FIU coach Mario Cristobal said. "We have got to find a way to block him and contain him." FIU has done an excellent job at protecting the quarterback this season, allowing just 13 sacks. Curry has 11 sacks this season, but he also has 21 tackles for loss and has forced six fumbles.
2. Get T.Y. Hilton loose. There is no doubt Hilton is one of the most dangerous players in college football because he can hurt you in so many ways. He catches passes, he is used as a runner out of the backfield, and he can return punts and kicks. A hamstring injury bothered him for a good portion of the season, but Hilton says he is 100 percent, so Marshall is going to have a real threat on its hands. It was Hilton who helped lead FIU to its win in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl against Toledo last season with his famous hook-and-ladder on a fourth-and-17. He also caught a touchdown pass and scored on a kick return.
3. Score touchdowns. FIU has done a good job of converting red zone opportunities into points, but it has to do a better job of getting touchdowns and not field goals. In 45 red zone chances this season, FIU has kicked 18 field goals and scored just 21 touchdowns. Maximizing those opportunities is essential to winning this game.
1. Slow down Rhodes and Hilton. In addition to trying to contain Hilton, Marshall also is going to have to slow down FIU running back Kedrick Rhodes. The sophomore finished the regular season with 1,121 rushing yards, 13 shy of breaking the FIU single-season record. But his yardage total is the most since FIU joined the FBS level, and he helped shoulder the load while Hilton was hobbled.
2. Don't ask Cato to do too much. Tron Martinez and Travon Van are going to have to do their part to take the pressure off quarterback Rakeem Cato, who has been up and down this season. Cato is back in the starting lineup and coming off a game in which he threw for a career-high 341 yards, but he also has a tendency to throw interceptions and take too many sacks. FIU is good against the run -- ranking No. 23 nationally -- so this will be a big test for the Herd.
3. Keep it close. Marshall has done exceptionally well in close games this season -- 5-0 in games that are decided by a touchdown or less. Marshall has had a hard time blowing teams out, or even winning comfortably, for that matter. In fact, the Herd are one of seven bowl teams to have been outscored this season. Only UCLA has been outscored by a wider margin, according to ESPN Stats & Information.