- After a 7-0 start to the season, USF lost its last five games down the stretch. Now the Bulls face a Marshall defense that is one of the nation's best.
Gasparilla Bowl: Marshall Thundering Herd vs. South Florida Bulls (+2.5)
Thu., December 20, 8:00 p.m. ET
Three things to know before betting on Marshall-South Florida:
1. USF will be playing a literal home game in the Gasparilla Bowl in Raymond James Stadium, but the Bulls could not have less momentum headed into the postseason. After a 7-0 start, USF went 0-5 straight up and 2-3 against the spread in its final five games. The Bulls are 4-8 against the spread this year, and the home-field advantage won't help much. South Florida is 1-5 against the spread at Raymond James this year.
Marshall finished its regular season on a higher note, winning three of its last four games, but it only covered in one of those games. While Marshall also finished 4-8 against the spread, its success in recent bowl games should give the team confidence. Under head coach Doc Holliday, Marshall has won all five of its bowl games both straight up and against the spread.
2. Marshall's defense is arguably the best in the Group of Five. Marshall has allowed only 22.0 points per game throughout the regular season despite facing Power Five offenses in North Carolina State and Virginia Tech. Marshall also held Lane Kiffin's explosive FAU Owls to a season-low seven points. Facing that caliber of defense, a USF offense that looks worse with each passing week will have a tough time finding points. The Bulls failed to score 24 points in each of their last four games, and the last time they did surpass that mark, they still lost by three touchdowns to Houston. South Florida starting quarterback Blake Barnett is questionable to play in the bowl game, and this spread will likely move further towards Marshall if he's ruled out.
3. Another injured player to keep an eye on is Marshall sophomore running back Tyler King. After becoming the lead back in early October, King had a three-game stretch in which he carried the ball 60 times for 485 yards and three touchdowns. But he has been sidelined since then with a knee injury. There was a possibility that King would return for the Virginia Tech game on December 1, which suggests there's an even better chance that he'll be ready for a game nearly three weeks later. Even if King misses this one, freshman Brenden Knox has proven to be a reliable backup. With a clear advantage on defense and several playmakers to turn to on offense, Marshall is a great bet here, giving less than a field goal.
Pick: Marshall -2.5
Confidence Level: Very High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)