Gasparilla Bowl: Central Florida Knights vs. Marshall Thundering Herd

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl
Central Florida Knights (9-3) vs.Marshall Thundering Herd (8-4)
Monday, December 23rd - 2:30 PM ET - Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
Betting Line: UCF -17.5, Total 61.5

The UCF Knights travel west on I-4 this December 23rd to Tampa's Raymond James Stadium where they'll take on Marshall's Thundering Herd in the Gasparilla Bowl. The Knights should see a significant home field advantage as they'll be just a short drive from their usual home in Orlando.

Marshall, who had a disappointing showing on the road this season, will need to take on a hungry UCF team that's tired of being snubbed.

The Numbers

UCF holds a very large advantage over Marshall in the scoring department. The Golden Knights score an average of 43 points per game. Marshall put up 25.8 points per game.

The scoring disparity is clear when you look at the yards each team is putting up. UCF passes for 320 yards and rushing for 216.6 yards per game while Marshall is putting up 200.9 passing and 195.6 rushing yards per contest. This comes out to a +140.1 yard differential for UCF.

UCF is also holding their own on defense. They allow just 344.8 yards per game to Marshall's 362.3. The Golden Knights allow just under 200 passing and 145 rushing yards per contest. Marshall gives up 227.8 passing and 134.5 rushing yards per game.

The Resume

UCF lost three games this season; all on the road. They lost at Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Tulsa. Those games were lost by a total of seven points.

UCF won road games at FAU, Temple, and Tulane. They came out on top in home games versus Florida A&M, Stanford, UConn, East Carolina, Houston, and USF.

The Golden Knights outscored their opponents 427-178 in wins for a 27.6 average victory.

Three of Marshall's four losses were on the road to #24 Boise State, Middle Tennessee State, and Charlotte. The fourth was a home loss to Cincinnati.

Marshall's two road wins were at FAU and Rice. They also won at home versus VMI, Ohio, Old Dominion, Western Kentucky, Louisiana Tech, and Florida International. Four of those wins were by a margin of seven points or less.

The Players

Freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel is the leader of the UCF offense. He passed for 3,393 yards and 27 touchdowns. The bad news is that he connected on just 59% of his passes and threw seven interceptions.

Gabriel is not known for being a mobile quarterback unlike some of the most successful college quarterbacks. He did rush for three touchdowns this season, but he did so while "rushing" for 77 yards on 68 attempts.

There is no true star in the UCF running game. Instead, they employ an all-out attack with Otis Anderson, Adrian Killins Jr, Bentavious Thompson, and Greg McCrae.

Anderson leads the pack with 104 attempts and 665 yards. He's rushed for five touchdowns. Killins Jr averaged 7.2 yards per carry and has 629 yards and seven touchdowns. Thompson has 530 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. McCrae has 84 touches and 449 yards for six scores.

Gabriel Davis is his favorite receiver. He's caught 72 passes for 1,241 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Marshalls offense is much more straightforward. QB Isaiah Green has not had a good year. He's completing just 57.5% of his passes. Green has passed for 2,265 yards, 14 touchdowns, and nine interceptions while being sacked 22 times.

TE Armani Levias is Green's favorite receiver, but he only has 43 receptions for 486 yards and three touchdowns. No player has more than three receiving touchdowns for Marshall.

The only saving grace on this offense is RB Brenen Knox who has 1,284 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns. He's averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

Tavante Beckett leads the defense with 114 tackles, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. He also has one interception and two sacks. Omari Cobb is not far behind Beckett. He's recorded 107 tackles, two sacks, an interception, and a forced fumble.

The Verdict

All signs point to a big game for UCF. Sixteen and a half points is not enough to deter me from picking the Golden Knights. They're basically a home team. Fans will make the short drive to Tampa to watch their team in an afternoon bowl game and have enough time to drive back home for dinner. UCF -16.5 is the pick here.