Camellia Bowl Picks: Marshall vs. Buffalo 12/25/20
Marshall Thundering Herd (7-2 SU, 5-4 ATS) vs. Buffalo Bulls (5-1 SU, 4-2 ATS)
When: Friday, December 25, 2:30 p.m.
Where: Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, Ala.
Point Spread: MRSH +4.5/BUF -4.5 (Bovada - Bet the game live, grab a 50% real cash bonus and get rebates on ALL your bets; win, lose or draw at one of the web’s BEST betting sites!)
Total: O/U 54
Not many people wanted to spend Christmas Day in Montgomery, Ala., and these teams probably want it even less than you might expect because both of them are coming in off a loss in the most important game of the season. Marshall and Buffalo were both losers in their respective conference championship games, and it’s a fair question as to whether the motivation will still be there for either team as they finish out their seasons.
At the same time, both of these teams have had quality years, and they’re going to want to finish this out with a win if at all possible. Can one side find the necessary motivation to shake off a sour end to the regular season and come up with a win in the last game of their season?
How the Public is Betting the Marshall/Buffalo Game
The public and the money are both hammering Buffalo here, as the line has jumped from -3 to -4.5 with 77 percent of tickets on the Bulls. The total has slipped slightly, falling from 54.5 to 54.
Running back Brenden Knox, linebacker Tavante Beckett and offensive lineman Josh Ball opted out of the bowl.
Running back Jaret Patterson (knee) is probable.
When Marshall Has the Ball
Something has seriously gone wrong with the Thundering Herd as of late, as Marshall is really struggling to get anything going on offense. Marshall was a 7-0 team when December began and looked like it could be a contender for an undefeated season, but the offense then put up six consecutive scoreless quarters as they ended the regular season with a shutout loss to Rice and a loss to UAB that was never really in doubt. If not for a 70-yard strike from Grant Wells to Xavier Gaines, Marshall wouldn’t even have come close to a win.
It begs the question as to whether Wells, a freshman, is hitting the wall as we play December football. Most freshmen don’t end up playing meaningful football in December at a place like Marshall, and it appears that the rest of the Herd has simply run out of gas. Things could get even worse with Brenden Knox choosing not to play in the bowl, as he was about the only Marshall weapon who did much of anything for most of the game against UAB. Sheldon Evans is the only other Marshall back who had more than 50 carries this year, which puts a lot of pressure on an already struggling passing game. Given that the Herd didn’t complete a pass until the third quarter against UAB, that’s a problem.
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When Buffalo Has the Ball
Buffalo expects Jaret Patterson to play, but the Bulls have an incredible luxury at the running back position: they can afford to replace him and not miss a beat. Kevin Marks is more than capable as the No. 2 running back for the Bulls, as he would probably start for about half the teams in the country. Whether Patterson does or doesn’t play, expect the Bulls to again go with a ground-heavy game plan, as Buffalo runs it better than just about anyone at this level.
However, this could be a very interesting battle, as this is a case of strength on strength. Marshall only gives up 88 yards a game on the ground, while Buffalo averages 309 yards a game. While Kyle Vantrease and Antonio Nunn can hook up when needed, Buffalo really prefers not to go that route. The Bulls tried it in their comeback attempt against Ball State and ended up with a backbreaking interception in spite of the 182 yards Nunn got on 13 catches. Buffalo will go to the air if that’s the only way it can win, but if running the ball is having any success, that’s what the Bulls will do.
There are two bets you don’t want to make with these teams: you don’t want to bet against Marshall in a bowl game, and you don’t want to bet against Buffalo when it’s coming off a loss. The Thundering Herd have covered in seven of their past eight bowl games, while Buffalo has followed its past four straight-up losses with a cover. However, both are in conflict here, as are the flip sides of those coins. Marshall has been awful at avoiding the quicksand, as it’s failed to cover in each of its past five games following a straight-up defeat. Buffalo has been just as poor at playing at a neutral site, covering only one out of the past eight.
The title game marked a rare under for Buffalo, and that was because the oddsmakers set the number at a ridiculous 70 points. For Marshall, it was two straight that they’d failed to hit the number, as the Herd’s defense has been playing well in the face of the offense’s problems.
At least it won’t be a white Christmas in Montgomery, as these teams will be playing in 43-degree temperatures with winds blowing at nine miles per hour to the west.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread
The way Marshall finished the season really gives me pause when I look at how I want to bet this one. I’d rather have Patterson at 100 percent, especially with how well Marshall can defend against the run, but the Herd offense looks like it’s just spent for the year and isn’t likely to put up points against a Buffalo defense that wants to make up for what Drew Plitt did to it in the MAC title game.
I expect this one to be a strong under play, as I doubt that Marshall can get more than a couple of scores with its offensive issues. That leaves Buffalo to do the bulk of the scoring, and while the Bulls have that ability, I don’t think it happens here, as I think they struggle against Marshall for a bit before pulling away in a low-scoring game. Give me the Bulls to get the cover along with the under.