UCF vs. Marshall: Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl fearless prediction and game preview.
UCF vs. Marshall: Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl Broadcast
Date: Monday, December 23
Game Time: 2:30 ET
Live Stream: fuboTV (click to watch for free)
Venue: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
Tickets: Get Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl Tickets Here
UCF (9-3) vs. Marshall (8-4) Game Preview
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Three Reasons Why You Should Watch The Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl
– Marshall is a phenomenal bowl team, at least lately. It’s 6-0 under head coach Doc Holliday, including a 38-20 win here in last year’s Gasparilla Bowl to USF, and the program is a ridiculous 12-1 since 1997 – only dropping the 2004 Fort Worth Bowl against Cincinnati – with the mindset and makeup to show up and care for these things. Holliday and his staff have it figured out. On the flip side …
– UCF hasn’t been all that great in bowl games lately. For all of the success, and for everything the program has taken from its Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl win over Auburn two seasons ago, it’s now 1-3 in its last four bowls going back to 2014. The Knights won back in 2012 when this was the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl – why does this matter?
The Florida teams haven’t been all that great in this thing, with UCF, FIU and USF going a combined 1-5 since USF won the inaugural St. Petersburg Bowl. And why does that matter? Between that, and Marshall being a terrific bowl program, UCF is a very, very big favorite.
– Marshall might have dropped a game to Charlotte on the road, but it comes into this as a home team winning six of its last seven, including a good victory on the road against eventually Conference USA champion Florida Atlantic. It beat four bowl-bound teams along the run.
UCF comes in relatively hot, winning five of its last six with only the strange loss at Tulsa to break it all up. The Knights lost three games by a total of seven points. If this is the elite program out of the Group of Five programs that it’s put up to be, it needs to take out the Conference USA team – even one that’s so amazing in bowl games.
CFN Podcast: Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl discussion, picks
Why Marshall Will Win
– The Thundering Herd pass rush should be just good enough to apply a little bit of pressure. The UCF offensive front is okay in pass protection, but it’ll give up a slew of tackles for loss. The big play offense usually makes up for it, but MU has a rising defensive front that needs to make more tackles for loss, but can come up with sacks in bunches.
– Getting the running game going means just about everything to the overall scheme of the Herd attack. This isn’t a high-powered O that’s going to win the ball all over the yard, so it has to run the ball effectively to control the clock – UCF doesn’t care about time of possession with its up-tempo style – and that’s where the MU line has to come in. The Herd are 7-1 when rushing for 170 yards or more, and UCF has allowed at least 170 on the ground in five of its last nine games.
– How did UCF lose to Tulsa? How did it lose three games? Those were the only three times all year it was on the wrong side of the turnover margin. The Knights were a +9 in all nine wins, and a -7 in the three losses with nine giveaways in the defeats.
Marshall has lost the turnover battle just once since the opening game blowout over VMI, screwing up a big performance against Middle Tennessee with four giveaways. The team is 8-0 on the year when turning it over fewer than twice.
Why UCF Will Win
– Marshall has a good passing game, but it’s not the type that’s going to keep up if UCF’s offense goes off. Isaiah Green has thrown for over 200 yards seven times, but in a perfect world, it’s mostly a complement to the tough ground attack. On the other side, freshman Dillon Gabriel has been close to flawless over the second half of the year. There were two picks in the loss to Tulsa, but those are the only interceptions he has given away in the last six games. The UCF passing game is fantastic, and …
– The UCF running game is better than Marshall’s. The offense might be known for its high-flying passing attack and fast pace, but the ground game benefits, too, with the speed and versatility to come up with five yards per carry on a consistent basis.
The Knights have rushed for two touchdowns or more in each of their last six games and in ten of the 12 games. They’re 0-2 when they don’t run for multiple scores, and 9-1 when they do. Marshall has allowed two or more rushing touchdowns in six of its last nine games.
Not to harp on this, but …
– The passing game differential really will be a big deal. The Knights don’t just throw the ball well, but their secondary has been terrific – they take advantage of teams that try to press a bit. Opposing passing games average a minuscule 5.8 yards per throw – MU’s pass D allows 7.2 yards per try – with five teams connecting on fewer than 50% of their throws. Marshall finished off its regular season hitting just 39% of its throws in the final two games.