Bowl Breakdown: Little Caesars

Publish date:

Marshall (6-6) vs. Ohio (9-4)Dec. 26, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN

Reason to watch: Well, it'll be the only live football on TV at 1 p.m. the day after Christmas. Seriously, there may not be a pairing taking more shots than the Pizza Pizza Bowl, which features two teams that five years ago were conference foes in the MAC. But it's that history that rates as the game's most intriguing quality. The Herd and Bobcats, whose home bases are located just 90 miles apart, are bitter rivals with a long history. They've staged the Battle for the Bell 52 times, and though the rivalry game ended after Marshall left the MAC in 2004, it will resume next season. No word yet on if the travelling bell trophy will make its way to Detroit.

Keep an eye on: The Ohio defense versus Marshall's turnover-prone offense. No team has forced more turnovers than the Bobcats' 36. At the center of it all are safety Gerald Moore, who has six picks, and all-MAC linebacker Noah Keller, a junior with 138 tackles, four quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles. They'll be facing a Thundering Herd offense that has coughed the ball up 21 times and ranks 86th nationally with a minus-.41 turnover margin.

Did you know: Marshall interim coach Rick Minter is no stranger to this bowl game. Minter, who will coach the Herd despite the hiring of Doc Holliday as Mark Snyder's replacement, went to two Motor City Bowls (the Little Caesar's previous name) as Cincinnati's head coach. He lost to Marshall in 2000 and beat Toledo in 2001.

Final analysis: The Herd will get a lift from the return of 1,000-yard runner Darius Marshall, who missed the last two games with an ankle injury and can exploit a Bobcats defense that's been susceptible to the run. But the RB can't help a Herd defense that's been reeling of late (36 points per game in its last three contests) and that should struggle against senior Ohio quarterback Theo Scott, who seems to have found his comfort zone (64.5 completion percentage in his last five games).

The pick: Ohio 27, Marshall 21.

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