Gasparilla Bowl Pick: Marshall vs. South Florida
Marshall Thundering Herd (8-4 SU, 4-8 ATS) vs. South Florida Bulls (7-5 SU, 4-8 ATS)
When: Thursday, December 20th, 2018 – 8:00 PM ET
Where: Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl – Raymond James Stadium – Tampa, FL
Point Spread: MARSH -2.5 / USF +2.5
Power Ratings: South Florida -1
Takeaways From The Regular Season
Marshall steps into the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl on the heels of a 41-20 loss in Blacksburg, Virginia on December 1st at the hands of the Virginia Tech Hokies. VT was looking to gain a critical sixth win to acquire bowl eligibility and thus took it to the Herd as style points were also in the best interest of Marshall. Previous to this, Marshall had gone 5-1 SU in their previous six contests all against Conference USA opposition.
The Bulls started off their 2018 campaign with a stellar 7-0 record achieving a ranking in the process. Then, it went all downhill for Coach Charlie Strong and USF when they lost in their last five outings to close out their season. Most recently, South Florida suffered a heinous 38-10 beat-down at the hands of their arch-rival Central Florida on November 23rd.
How the Public is Betting The Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl
At the moment, the consensus seems more or less down Broadway regarding the two sides in this fixture. Presently, the Bulls are seeing 52% of the public siding with them.
The Bulls and Thundering Herd have never met in their respective program’s histories. This affair will be their first encounter.
South Florida quarterback Blake Barnett is listed as probable for the Gasparilla Bowl. The Bulls signal caller is the driving force of the USF offense, as he is responsible for 20 total touchdowns on 2,800 yards from scrimmage (passing and rushing combined). Fortunately for Charlie Strong and company they will likely have Barnett ready to go for action.
When Marshall Has the Ball
A topic of concern for USF is their defense, as it is one of the worst against the run giving up a 121st -ranked 244.8 yards per game while also giving up a 92nd-ranked 31.5 points per game. The good news for USF is their passing defense only gives up 197.2 passing yards per game (35th nationally) and they are up against a pedestrian Marshall offense that compiles just 384.5 yards of total offense per game (81st in America) while scoring 27.4 points per outing. (77th in the FBS) The Thundering Herd are more inclined to lean on their 66th-ranked passing attack which collates 228.7 yards per game through the air. As a whole, the Herd’s primary weapon is their defense which gives up just 22 points per game (33rd in the FBS) and 335.6 yards of total defense per game (23rd in America).
When South Florida Has the Ball
The Bulls are a run-first offense that compiles 202.5 yards per game on the ground (36th nationally). Spearheaded by the battery of 1,000-yard rusher Jordan Cronkrite and the aforementioned quarterback Blake Barnett who possesses dual-threat ability, USF has managed to score 29.2 points per game (64th in the FBS). However, Marshall owns the 8th ranked rushing defense in America surrendering a menial 103.9 yards per contest. This will be the focal point of the match-up as USF will look to overcome this scenario with a spread option approach to open up running lanes on the outside.
There are no head-to-head trends between the two sides given the fact they have never met previously. The only prevailing narrative heading into this contest is USF’s aforementioned five-game losing streak and Marshall failing to cover in their previous three fixtures.
The weather will be pleasant as temperatures are expected to be in the 60’s with partly sunny skies. There is virtually no chance of precipitation and winds will also be pretty much non-existent. The conditions are optimal for football.
Keith’s Pick to Cover the Spread: South Florida +120
According to Scores and Odds, USF takers are getting a significant edge in this contest but that is not the only reason we like the Bulls here in this spot. Though this game is classed as a “neutral-site” bowl game, it ironically enough is being played in the same stadium the Bulls happen to play in. This is a home game for the Bulls and we have to like how the location of the venue gives the Bulls the upper-hand. USF do not have to travel, their local-based fans can show up in droves, and they can hone playing on their turf as a 4-2 SU team this season in Tampa-St. Pete to their advantage. It is for this reason alone that despite USF losing their last five games, the market is reluctant to give them anything more than a field goal. However, we are bullish on the Bulls and chances are USF won’t even need it. The Bulls will close out their season with an exclamation point on their own pitch.