It’s no surprise that either of these teams earned their way into a bowl game. Prior to the start of the 2018 college football season, both were certainly projected to do so. On Thursday, Dec. 20 at 8 pm the Marshall Thundering Herd (8-4, 2nd Conf-USA – East) will play the South Florida Bulls (7-5, 4th AAC – East) in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl at Raymond Jones Stadium in Tampa, FL. Our 2018 Gasparilla Bowl preview has Marshall at -3.0 and the over/under at 51.0.
Marshall finished the season with a 41-20 loss to the ACC’s Virginia Tech. However, within conference play, the Thundering Herd started with a win over Western Kentucky and then followed that with a loss to Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders would take the East Division with Marshall finishing second. After that loss, the Thundering Herd went 5-1 in C-USA play. The Bulls started AAC play at 2-0. But after that, it was downhill, as they lost their five remaining conference games. That included their final three to the trio of teams that finished above them in the AAC East. With that in mind, here’s our 2018 Gasparilla Bowl preview that includes free picks for the spread and totals.
Marshall Thundering Herd – Analysis
The Marshall offense is fairly balanced. While averaging 27.4 PPG, they’re good, overall, for 228.7 YPG passing and 155.8 YPG rushing. For the Thundering Herd, freshman QB Isaiah Green (55.7 COMP%, 15 TDs, 10 INTs) has been their guy. Over the course of the season, Green has grown into the job and showed improvement. His go-to receivers are wideouts Tyre Brady and Obo Obialo. Brady has caught 66 passes for 914 yards and nine scores. Obialo has had 38 receptions for 473 yards. He has crossed the goal line four times. TE Armani Levias, a junior, has three TD catches. The rush attack will be anchored by Benden Knox who’s averaging 5.8 YPA. He’s scored three times. Bruising RB Anthony Anderson is especially effective in short yardage scenarios. Anderson has scored eight TDs.
The Thundering Herd defense is allowing opponents 22.0 PPG. Their run defense is giving up 103.9 YPG, while their passing D is permitting 231.7 YPG. The Herd has an impressive 88 TFL and a solid 43 sacks. They’ve broken up 57 passes, grabbed 12 picks, and forced a dozen fumbles. Our 2018 Gasparilla Bowl preview notes that they can be tough against the run, which is South Florida’s bread and butter. Channing Hames lead the team with 10.5 TFL and Ty Tyler with 8.0 sacks.
South Florida Bulls – Analysis
The Bulls can certainly run. On average, they have been rushing for 202.5 YPG. The team’s passing offense is accumulating 241.7 YPG, which brings their total yards on offense to 444.2 YPG. South Florida has been averaging 29.2 PPG. Starting QB Blake Barnett, a junior, is questionable. Barnett missed two of the team’s last three games. He’s been dealing with a few injuries. In the season, Barnett, who is also an important part of this team’s ground attack, completed 62.1% of his passes, while throwing 11 TD passes and 11 picks.
On the ground, he carried the ball 99 times, averaging 3.2 YPA and scoring 8 times. If he does not play, the duties may be split between junior Chris Oladokun and sophomore Brett Kean. Both completed under 50% of their pass attempts. Although the Bulls are primarily a running team, they will still utilize the pass. Look for wideout Tyre McCants (58 REC, 607 YDs, 3 TDs) to be the top pass catcher. The ground game will be anchored by Jordan Cronkite, who ran for 1,095 yards and 9 TDs while averaging 6.3 YPA. Freshman Johnny Ford, who’s averaged 7.1 YPA, has scored eight times.
The South Florida defense is problematic. They’ve given up 31.5 PPG and 441.9 YPG. Of that yardage, 244.7 is on the ground and 197.3 through the air. Although the Bulls have 84 TFL, they have had a tough time containing the run. They’ve recorded eight FF, 27 sacks, and 11 INTs. Plus, the Bulls have defended 40 passes. Here’s the skinny on this team’s defense versus offense. In their first seven games, which they won, they scored a total of 239 points and allowed 180. In the final five games, all losses, they scored 101 points and gave up 198. They were +5.4 when winning and -19 when losing.
Five Keys to the Game
- Thundering Herd must thunder when running
- Marshall QB Green needs to play smart, make good decisions
- Bulls have to find a way to underpin faltering defense
- South Florida QB situation is problematic
- If Marshall builds up steam at the start, there’s no stopping them
Our 2018 Gasparilla Bowl Preview – Pick
Our 2018 Gasparilla Bowl preview likes the Marshall Thundering Herd at -3.0. If they can score around 35, we expect the Bulls to be good for about 20. The over/under is 51.0. We are taking the over in this one. For more picks, please be sure to visit our NCAA FBS page.