Who: USF Bulls (7-5) vs. Marshall Thundering Herd (8-4)
What: 2018 Gasparilla Bowl
When: Thursday night 8:00 p.m.
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa
Spread: Marshall by 3 points (Courtesy of Vegasinsider.com)
Who quarterbacks the Bulls?
When last we saw USF in action in late November, their 5th Year senior quarterback who transferred from Arizona State, Blake Barnett, had been too banged up to play. So, USF has had to utilize backups Brett Kean and Chris Oladokun in Barnett’s absence. Neither quarterback distinguished themselves in either the Temple or UCF losses to end the year.
It’s now a month later for this matchup, and there is still a question mark entering tonight’s, as to whether Barnett will be healthy enough to play? If the Bulls can’t have some balance by throwing the ball on offense, it’s going to make things very difficult.
The Thundering Herd won 8 games, including a C-USA regular season ending win at FIU, which cost the Panthers a spot in the title game. They are going to be tough opponent.
Something’s Gotta Give with the Run game
The Bulls have an outstanding running attack led by former Florida Gator transfer Jordan Cronkrite and small speedster Johnny Ford (above) as a one-two punch in their backfield. They combined 1,832 rushing yards and eight combined 100 yard rushing games. It’s the Bulls best chance to move the ball and score.
However, USF is going against one of the best run defenses in college football. The Thundering Herd are ranked 9th nationally (103.9 yards per game) against the run per game. As we laid out above, it’s already going to be an inexperienced backup quarterback that’s like they’re going to be out there for the Bulls.
So, if Marshall contains Cronkite and Ford it’s big trouble for the Bulls.
Battle the elements
Usually bowl games in Florida are a selling point, but the weather has not cooperated the last couple of days in Tampa. Reports are that over an inch of rain has fallen continuously on Thursday alone.
The good news is the field at Raymond James Stadium, where the Bulls and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play home games, is traditionally one of the better surfaces in football.
How much will footing be an issue due to the rain and the slick conditions?
It will be a factor, as rain is expected to fall throughout the game Thursday night.
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