Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl: Marshall vs. South Florida NCAAF Pick

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Gasparilla Bowl - Marshall vs South Florida

The 7-5 South Florida Bulls have themselves another home game. They’ll be facing off with the 8-4 Marshall Thundering Herd in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, which kicks off this Wednesday night at 8 PM EST at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

Normally, we would expect a home team in a bowl game to be favored, but that’s not the case here. The Bulls imploded down the stretch and lost five straight, an unfathomable development for a squad that burst out of the gates with a mark of 7-0. As a result, they’ll be playing the role of 2.5-point underdogs as of this writing.

The status of Bulls signal caller Blake Barnett is also uncertain at this time, so that’s another check mark in the positive column for the Thundering Herd. Let’s take a closer look at this matchup in full detail, starting with the game line.

Marshall vs. South Florida, 8 PM EST, Thur. December 20, ESPN


  • Marshall -2.5 (-123)
  • South Florida +2.5 (+103)

Money line:

  • Marshall -155
  • South Florida +135

Total Points:

  • Over 55.5(-105)
  • Under 55.5 (-115)

Marshall vs. South Florida pick:

Marshall’s season was more of a steady ride than South Florida’s. The Thundering Herd started off the year winning five of seven, and they closed things out by winning three of the last five. However, the team’s final loss of the season was a thumping at the hands of Virginia Tech, as they went down to defeat by a score of 41-20.

After starting the season off so strong, the Bulls had their sights set on a lofty bowl berth. Then the bottom fell out. While Barnett being banged up and missing time certainly played a role in the team’s late-season swoon, that doesn’t excuse the fact that all five of their losses were by 10 points or more.

Record Conf. Rec. PF PA Streak Standings CFP Rank
Marshall 8-4 6-2 329 264 L1 2-CUSA East NA
South Florida 7-5 3-5 350 378 L5 4-AAC East NA

Marshall opened up the 2018 season with a pair of wins over Miami-Ohio and Eastern Kentucky, but they would come up short in their third game of the year versus NC State. The tam went 1-1 in its next two, but the Thundering Herd closed out the season strong by winning five of the final seven. That span included a big 31-7 victory over Florida Atlantic, as well as a 23-0 beatdown of UTSA.

A little over the halfway mark of the season, and the Bulls were looking like threats to take down the American Athletic Conference. Over its seven-game winning streak, South Florida dropped a number of impressive offensive performances, scoring 30 or more points four time. They would only reach that mark one more time over the rest of the year in a 57-36 loss to Houston.

Offense Defense
PPG RuYdF PaYdF PtsAll RuYdA PaYdA
Marshall 27.4 155.8 228.7 22.0 103.9 231.7
South Florida 29.2 202.5 241.7 31.5 244.7 197.3

From a points-per-game perspective, Marshall and South Florida are pretty even on offense, but the Bulls bring a more effective rushing attack to the table. While there’s no question that Marshall has the stronger defensive unit, South Florida does a better job against the pass.

Marshall is also much better from a pressure perspective, and the team’s offensive line has done a better job in protection as well. Turnovers and penalties are basically a wash. In short, these two teams are relatively evenly matched, but there are clear edges to be found for both sides.

Recent History

This will be the first-ever meeting of these two schools, but both squads have plenty of recent bowl game history to dig into. Marshall has gone bowling in four of the last five years. Impressively, the team has won them all and covered three out of four, with the lone against the spread miss being a push.

Back in 2015, they appeared in this very same Gasparilla Bowl as 2.5-point favorites over UConn. The Thundering Herd won that one by a final score of 16-10. Last year, Marshall was invited to the New Mexico Bowl. They walked onto the field as 3-point underdogs to Colorado State, but they walked off as 31-28 victors.

South Florida has received bowl invites in each of the last three years and enjoyed a good amount of success as well, going 2-1 over that span while covering the spread once. They fell to Western Kentucky by a score of 45-35 in the 2015 Miami Beach Bowl. In each of the last two years, the team appeared in the Birmingham Bowl. South Florida defeated South Carolina in 2016 by a score of 46-39, and they took down Texas Tech last year 38-34.

The favorite has won the last three editions of the Gasparilla Bowl and covered twice. Last year, Temple was a 7-point favorite over Florida International, and they easily handled business in a 28-3 rout. The previous two editions were much closer, with Marshall defeating UConn 16-10 in 2015, and Mississippi State squeaking by Miami-Ohio by a score of 17-16 in 2016.

The Verdict

While the homefield edge for South Florida is certainly notable, the team has a number of question marks swirling around. At the forefront is the availability of Blake Barnett, and we encourage you to keep an eye on the news and game line up until kickoff as a result.

While Barnett being good to go would naturally be a positive, the squad still has to answer for its late-season collapse. Can they suddenly put it all together for a bowl game after a deflating five-game losing streak in a season in which they had much larger ambitions?

That’s tough to bounce back from, but we can’t completely rule it out. However, Marshall’s steady play in 2018 combined with its impressive run in recent bowl games points to the Thundering Herd as the safer wager.

We’ll take Marshall minus the points.

The Bet: Marshall -2.5 (-123)

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