Marshall Thundering Herd (8-4, 6-2 C-USA) vs South Florida Bulls (7-5, 3-5 AAC)
Date/Time: Thursday, December 20, 8:00 P.M.
TV: ESPN (Play-By-Play: Clay Matvick, Analyst: Dan Orlovsky, Sidelines: Paul Carcaterra)
Radio: 96.7 WKID Tampa Bay (Play-By-Play: Jim Louk, Analyst: Sam Barrington, Sidelines: Joey Johnston)/WDDG 93.7 FM The Dawg (Play-By-Play: Steve Cotton & Mark Martin)
Location: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
Betting Line: Marshall -2.5 O/U 51
All-Time Series Record: First ever meeting between programs
There’s no two ways about it.
Charlie Strong and the Bulls come into their bowl game in desperate need of a win.
A season that started off with great promise and a 7-0 start, ended with five straight losses, including an decisive loss against arch-rival UCF at home.
The positive is that USF gets to play its final game of the season in the familiar surroundings of Raymond James Stadium, which is their home stadium.
The Bulls will be helped by the return of starting quarterback Blake Barnett, who hasn’t played in a month due to a foot injury. When healthy, Barnett has had flashes of the potential that made him a five-star recruit coming out of high school.
For USF to get back into the win column, he’ll need to get the ball into the hands of star receiver Tyre McCants and running backs Jordan Cronkite and Johnny Ford will need to get going early.
Defensively, South Florida has been a mixed bag. They’ll need to account for Marshall’s sizable wide receivers and disrupt any confidence that freshman Isaiah Green gets going early.
The Herd’s last two games have been polar opposites.
They went to FIU and ended any hopes of a Conference USA title for their division rivals, then put on a lackluster performance against an average Virginia Tech team.
A win against USF would be a nice way to cap off solid season for Doc Holiday’s ballclub.
Freshman signal-caller Isaiah Green has battled injuries and competition from Alex Thomson to solidify himself as the guy of the present and future in Huntington.
While he still makes some youthful mistakes, he’s more than talented enough to lead Marshall to victory in Tampa.
First priority will be to get the ball in the hands of Tyre Brady, who’s one of Conference USA’s premier receivers. The Miami transfer is 86 yards shy of 1,000 receiving on the season.
On the other side is another dangerous target in Obi Obialo, who like Brady, stands at 6’3 and 210 pounds.
Running back Brendan Knox has gone from forth-string to starter because of injuries to Tyler King and Keion Davis. In turn, Knox has responded very well and will be a factor in the contest.
On defense, the Herd are led by linebacker Chase Hancock, defensive end Ty Tyler and ball-hawk safety Malik Gant. As a unit, Marshall’s defense was one of the best in Conference USA.
Marshall comes into the game as the more complete team and having more consistency. Expect playmakers like Brady, Gant and Knox to play a huge part in deciding the outcome of this one.
South Florida needs a win. Not only for its own confidence, but to give the home fans something to look forward to heading into the off-season. The task won’t be easy against a talented Herd team. But it’s literally now or never for USF.
USF 24 Marshall 21