The South Florida Bulls (7-5) will take on the Marshall Thundering Herd (8-4) in the 2018 Gasparilla Bowl. Kickoff is set for 8:00 EST on Thursday, December 20th at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL. Note that his the home field of USF.  The game will be televised on ESPN.

Oddsmakers opened this game up at Marshall -3 and that’s where it stands at most places, though some have lowered it down the Herd -2.5. The total for this matchup is currently sitting at 54 points.

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Marshall vs South Florida Vegas Odds & Game Preview

The Thundering Herd finished T-2nd in the C-USA East at 6-2, just 1-game back of division winner Middle Tennessee. That’s pretty much what people expected from this team, just it was suppose to be FAU that ran-away with the division.

Marshall will be headed to their 6th bowl game in 9 years under head coach Doc Holliday. The goal will be simple. Keep Holliday’s perfect bowl record (5-0) in tact. Last year they were a 4-point dog to Colorado State and pulled out a 31-28 win.

South Florida is one of a few bowl teams that really struggled down the stretch and it was about as unexpected as it gets. The Bulls started out the season 7-0 and were ranked in the Top 25 (at the time were 17-2 under head coach Charlie Strong). They then failed to win another game, closing out the year on a 5-game losing streak.

Strong won his bowl debut with USF last year, defeating Teas Tech 38-34 in the Birmingham Bowl. Overall, Strong is 4-3 in bowl games. South Florida as a program has won 4 of their last 5 bowl games.

2018 Gasparilla Bowl Free NCAAF Betting Prediction: Marshall -2.5

I think the fact that this game is being played on South Florida’s home field and they are a dog to a team from a perceived worse conference, tells you all you need to know. My early lean here would be to lay the small number with the Thundering Herd in a game I think they have a realistic shot at winning in a blowout.

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I don’t think the poor finish to the season for the Bulls was any kind of fluke. If anything, I think it showed us just how much of a fluke their 7-0 start really was. In fact, if you look closer at the numbers, USF is lucky to even be in a bowl game. They were down 2 scores in the 4th quarter to both Tulsa and Illinois and somehow won both. They trailed 24-9 in the 1st quarter of a win over East Carolina. They were also outgained by almost 200 yards in a win over Georgia Tech, where they had two kick returns for a TD.

Let’s also not forget South Florida was expected to take a step back this year, as they only had 11 returning starters and had to replace one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country in Quinton Flowers. Not to mention their two top rushers behind Flowers, who combined for over 1,800 yards and 18 scores.

The addition of Alabama transfer Blake Barnett did help ease the loss of Flowers, but he struggled to take care of the ball, throwing as many interceptions (11) as he did touchdowns (11). He’s expected to play, but a shoulder injury did force him to miss multiple games down the stretch. You have to wonder just how in sync he is with the offense.

He’ll also be going up against a tough Marshall defense. The Thundering Herd finished 23rd in total defense, giving up just 335.6 ypg. They were also exceptional against the run, allowing just 104 yards/game and a mere 2.9 yards/carry.

On the flip side of this, the South Florida defense was not very good at all this year. Opposing teams did as they pleased against them. More times than not, just running it down their throats, as the Bulls allowed 245 yards/game and 5 yards/carry against the run. Give me Marshall -2.5!