This time last year, the Marshall Thundering Herd were preparing for this same Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl against a Florida based university. They would go on to defeat USF last season to capture the title. This time around, things won’t be so easy. Marshall’s Monday opponent, UCF has only lost three games all year and come into this game as heavy 15.5 point favorites.
Coming into this contest, the Knights have the 4th ranked offense in the nation compared to the Herd’s 43rd ranked defense. The Knights love to throw the ball with Freshman QB Dillion Gabriel, who led an offense that averaged 43 points a game with some impressive numbers for himself. He threw for 3,393 yards and 27 touchdowns while averaging 283 passing yards per game.
On the ground, the Knights have several different weapons. Running backs Otis Anderson and Adrian Killins have led the team, but Adrian Killins Jr. and Bentavious Thompson have had their own success at times this season. Killins has declared for the NFL and so too, has Gabriel Davis (1,241 yards and 12 TDs).
Both will not be playing Monday afternoon in Tampa.
So, Tre Nixon (776 yards and 7 TDs) will be the big-play big- body target trying to make Gabriel’s job a lot easier. Marshall’s pass defense ranked 67th in the nation and could be in trouble in this one. The one thing that could help them is possible rain coming down in Tampa in the afternoon.
For the Thundering Herd on offense, they average 25.8 points a game and are led by running back Brenden Knox, who has rushed for 1,284 yards and 11 touchdowns. Quarterback Isaiah Green has thrown for 2,265 yards and only 14 TDs, and has been intercepted nine times. The Quarterback has struggled in the last two games for the Herd failing to throw for over 100 yards in both games.
It will be tough for Marshall to win this game, averaging 15 points less a game than UCF, but this Marshall team had won 6 of their last 7 games before being upset by Charlotte propelling FAU into the C-USA title game. And, it’s a UCF team that went to sleep and was beaten by a bad Tulsa team late in the year, too.
So, we’ll see who puts up a big fight at Raymond James Stadium Monday.
Speedy former UCF RB Killins looks to impress at Shrine Bowl
One-player eager to start showcasing himself Saturday afternoon in the pre-draft process in St Petersburg is former UCF speedster RB, Adrian Killins.
Killins ,who just finished four years of highlight runs and touchdowns for the the Knights will participate in the East-West Shrine Bowl.
— East-West Shrine Bowl (@ShrineBowl) December 2, 2019
Killins is generously listed at 5’9 and 165 lb. and came UCF without much fanfare from Daytona Mainland High School. However, he had been an explosive player on the football gridiron, and he was also a former two time 3A State 200m track champion before coming to Orlando.
Once at UCF in 2016, Killins immediately showed off his explosiveness and moniker of “fastest player in college football” with a 100-yard kickoff return at ECU and an 87 yard touchdown run at “the Big House” in Ann Arbor against Michigan.
His best season was his sophomore year, when he was named First Team All American Athletic Conference RB, as he rushed for 790 yards and 10 touchdowns to lead UCF. He showed versatility and caught another additional 25 passes for 169 yards.
He also set a UCF record for longest play from scrimmage that still stands, in the UCF regular season win over Memphis, as he took a handoff and the looked like a missle racing down the sideline:
Longest run in @UCF_Football history ✔️
Longest run in @American_FB history ✔️
2nd-longest in NCAA this year ✔️
— UCF Football (@UCF_Football) October 1, 2017
Killins helped the Knights experience their greatest season ever at 13 – 0 with not only a thrilling double-overtime conference title game rematch win over the Tigers, but a New Year’s Day upset of SEC Powerhouse Auburn in the Peach Bowl for the perfect season.
His next two years under Josh Heupel and his new coaching staff were not as spectacular. But, he still he would make the occasional explosive run and finished his career with over 1,700 yards rushing and 25 touchdowns.
He did leave a final impression with his 115 yards and 1 TD in the regular season finale with USF.
Now, he knows that with his smaller size, even with blazing speed, he will be challenged to stick on an NFL roster, and another way might be as a kick returner. Killins left UCF with a career 21.8 avg on 47 returns as a Knight.
He will likely need to show that part of his game to help him get a realistic shot at the next level. And, we wait to see if there will be explosive plays from him Saturday.
Final Power Rankings for 2019
It’s the final edition of our 2019 power rankings headed into the bowl onslaught and the final Sunday of NFL football. The teams at the top should look familiar, including two that have won their bowl game already. and the final three have definitely deserved to be moved up or into the final list.
Florida Gators – the Gators are prepping for Monday night’s Orange Bowl against the Virginia Cavaliers and will hold down the top spot in the power rankings to dnd season based on their overall consistent performance. A second straight 10-win year and also “New Year’s Six” bowl game validates the hire and the hard work of Dan Mullen, his staff and the players. You consider the Florida’s only two losses in the toughest college conference in land are to #1 LSU and rival Georgia, who won the East and is in the Sugar Bowl themselves.
So, it’s been a good season. Now, can they cap it off what they did a year ago with a Peach Bowl win over Michigan?
UCF Knights – As we wrote on Monday, they finished with a third straight 10-win season by hammering the Marshall Thundering Herd in the Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa. Freshman QB Dillon Gabriel (above) showed great poise, skill and potential for the future throughout the season. He threw two more touchdowns and ran for another, while being named the Bowl MVP.
UCF clearly has the arrow pointing up and has established itself, as the second-best program in the state behind the Gators.
FAU Owls- A great finish to the regular season, a Conference USA title game win and now, a Boca Raton Bowl win over SMU last Saturday brings the Owls to finish third on our list. Even though coach Lane Kiffin has departed to take over at Ole Miss, former USF, Oregon and FSU coach Willie Taggart slid-into Boca Raton and has a great chance to succeed right away.
Quarterback Chris Robison continued to play well throughout the close of season, including in the win over the Mustangs last Saturday. FAU won 10 games for the second time in three years and is deserving of this slot.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Even though the Bucs had their four-game winning streak snapped last Saturday by the Houston Texans, they still have played consistent, good football in the second half of the year and had gotten their record to 7-7.
Yes, QB Jameis Winston has been maddening with the interceptions, but also has been smashing single-game passing records and has been a key part of them being able to score/win games. But, after three more picks last week, Winston needs a good performance in the finale’ with the Falcons Sunday to quiet down the critics that the Buccaneers part with him after this season.
Tampa Bay’s defense under coordinator Todd Bowles has also approved, particularly their secondary where they have spent numerous premium draft picks over the last few years. A win Sunday would only be the third time this decade the Buccaneers don’t have a losing season.
Miami Dolphins – They come off a dramatic overtime win over the lowly Bengals last week in a game, where they collapsed but still found a way to win. It was their fourth one of the season after an 0 – 7 start and clearly the team is playing hard for coach Brian Flores and his staff at the end.
We are still puzzled as to why they insist on not playing QB Josh Rosen in these meaningless games, but it likely means GM Chris Grier and Flores have decided that Rosen is being cut at the end of this season and they will simply eat $4 million dollars in dead cap money.
Finally, the development of DeVante Parker hass continued as he went over 1,000 yards receiving last week and got a contract extension with a bunch of guaranteed money. And, while Miami does have numerous holes to fill, they have a chance to be a .500 team in 2020, if they keep trending in the right direction.
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