UCF (9-3) is making its 4th straight bowl appearance and 7th in the last eight seasons. The Golden Knights had preseason hopes of playing in the New Year’s Six, but will have to settle for a pre-Christmas bowl game. UCF features a dangerous offensive attack led by freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel who is averaging 282.8 passing yards per game with 27 touchdowns this season. The Golden Knights rank fourth nationally with 536.6 total yards per game and sixth with 43.0 points per game this season.
Marshall (8-4) is making its 7th bowl appearance in 10 seasons under head coach Doc Holliday. The Thundering Herd are a remarkable 6-0 in bowl games under Holliday and 12-2 overall in program history. Marshall’s .857 winning percentage is the best in the country among programs that have made at least five bowl appearances. Brenden Knox led Conference USA in rushing this season with 107 yards per game and 11 touchdowns while quarterback Isaiah Green combined for 18 total touchdowns this season.
ESPN’s FPI gives UCF an 83.2% chance of winning this game. We break down the line and offer our best bets and analysis for Monday’s Gasparilla Bowl between the Golden Knights and Thundering Herd.
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UCF vs. Marshall Game Details
Date: Monday, December 23
Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
Location: Raymond James Stadium (Tampa, Florida)
Spread: UCF -15
This line opened at UCF -17.5 and has been bet down to UCF -15 with the majority of the bets and money coming in on Marshall. This line is correlated to the action and is moving with the market.
- UCF is 9-3 SU and 5-7 ATS this season
- Marshall is 8-4 SU and 4-8 ATS this season
- Under is 6-6 in UCF games this season
- Over is 7-5-1 in Marshall games this season
Analysis & Pick
Motivation will be the biggest factor in this game, as is the case with most of the non-New Year’s Six games. This is a big step down in competition for UCF, who lost to LSU in the Fiesta Bowl last year and beat Auburn in the Peach Bowl two years ago. I question if second-year head coach Josh Heuepel will have his team fully motivated for an afternoon tilt against Marshall in a somewhat meaningless bowl game that is very close to home for UCF, just a short drive west on I-4 in Tampa. Meanwhile, Doc Holliday always has his team ready for the postseason and has never lost a bowl game during his tenure at Marshall. Another factor to consider here is these two teams are very familiar with each other, having played in the same conference from 2002-04 and then against from 2005-12. I am a little worried about the Thundering Herd’s secondary being able to contain wide receiver Gabriel Davis, who hauled in 72 catches for 1,241 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. Marshall can defense has been stingy this season, allowing just 23.1 points per game. If they can slow down this UCF high-powered offense just enough to stay close, I think they find a way to pull this game out late and keep Holliday’s unblemished bowl record intact. I’m calling for the upset here. Take the points and don’t forget to sprinkle the moneyline.
PICK: Marshall +15
Follow Jared Smith on Twitter: @jaredleesmith