Gasparilla Bowl Preview: Marshall Thundering Herd vs South Florida Bulls

The Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl takes place tonight in Tampa, Florida. The Marshall Thundering Herd and the South Florida Bulls square off in what should be a highly contested game with a spread of 3.5 favoring Marshall.

Both Teams Look to Recover From Losses

Both of these teams coming off of losses, but the Bulls are on a 5 game losing streak to end the year after starting the year 7-0. That is a really strange situation that will need to be looked into a bit more. Marshall had won 3 in a row before their latest loss to an out-of-conference Virginia Tech team on the road. All of Marshall’s losses have come to teams .500 or better, but they did fail to secure an impressive win throughout the season. They seem to have beaten everyone that they should have and lost to teams that are generally a higher caliber than them.

South Florida can say pretty similar things. They have lost their last 5, but that really isn’t shocking based on their schedule. The should have been able to come out with a win or 2, but the back half of their schedule had at least 4 of their 5 toughest games. The most impressive win either of these teams had was probably USF’s week two win over Georgia Tech, a 7-5 ACC team. That being said, neither of these teams have truly high profile games even on their schedule, and the best teams they played all beat them rather soundly

Marshall’s Offense Looking Good

Marshall is a very balanced offense, running the ball 431 times this year while passing the ball 407 times. That is about as close to 50/50 you are going to see a team be when it comes to offensive play calling. Their QB play was pretty rough throughout the year. Their starting quarterback finished the year around a 55% completion rate, 15TDs/10INTs, and only 80 rushing yards on the year. You may see these bad passing numbers for someone who is more of a scrambler, but that is not the case here. This is a clear weakness for this team, and it is something that they must try to compensate for in this game. The good news is that the USF defense is ranked 104th in the country in yards allowed per game. If they can just execute at a decent level, USF will allow them to drive the field rather easily.

USF Could Go Either Way

USF’s season has been a tale of two halves, and a lot of that has to do with the injuries to Blake Barnett. Barnett was one of the most highly-touted QBs in his class and he is the key player on this team. He was injured the last 3 games of the season, and USF put up 50 combined points. Now, that wasn’t against horrible teams, but they would have scored much more if Barnett was fully-healthy. Barnett is listed as questionable tonight and was reportedly without a walking boot as of 4 days ago. A reporter that covers that team has reported that one of the backups will get the start and Barnett will be an “emergency option” due to the quality of Marshall’s defense (23rd in the country) and the bad weather/field conditions expected. This makes me really worried for this offense, and it is the difference in the game for me.

Marshall vs. USF Prediction

If we get word that Barnett is healthy enough to start and expected to play the entire game, this goes to a no bet or even a bet for USF if the number doesn’t move too much, as Barnett would be the most impactful player on the field for either team. As it stands right now, I think that Barnett does not see the field and that Marshall has a field day with these backup quarterbacks. The biggest concern with Marshall is that they haven’t faced a great offense all year, but without Barnett, this is a bad offense. Marshall is 5-0 all-time with Doc Holliday at the helm, and I think he adds another bowl win tonight. I’ll take Marshall (-3.5).