CFB Picks 12/23: Gasparilla Bowl
The Gasparilla Bowl features a matchup between two teams that have ended the season strongly, winning six of the last eight games.
The UCF Knights and Marshall Huskies are unfamiliar opponents crossing paths at Raymond James Stadium for the first time in seven years.
- Marshall has failed to cover the spread in nine of the last 10 day games.
- The Huskies have a 48 ATS record this season.
- UCF has a 75 ATS record as a traveling favorite since 2017. Stats courtesy of StatsChecker.
UCF may have gotten used to playing on a much bigger stage after competing in back-to-back New Year’s Day bowl games in 2017 and 2018. Yet, after an underwhelming season, the Knights find themselves playing in the Gasparilla Bowl against Marshall.
The Knights (9-3) began the season on an 18-game American Conference winning streak but dropped two AAC matchups against Cincinnati and Tulsa, both by a field goal.
Offense wasn’t the issue which has been one of the most explosive in the nation, averaging the sixth most points in the FBS (43 ppg).
Junior wide receiver Gabriel Davis had a huge regular season, putting up the fifth most receiving yards in the nation (1,241) and the ninth most receiving touchdowns in the FBS (12).
Meanwhile, Marshall (8-4) ended the season on a high note after starting slowly at (2-3). The Huskies won six of the last eight games and were competitive in their lone matchup against a ranked opponent this season, a 14-7 defeat to #24 Boise State.
Sophomore dual threat quarterback Isaiah Green had an up-and-down season for the Huskies, throwing for 2,265 yards with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions, adding 281 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns.
Fellow sophomore running back Brenden Knox had a stellar season, rushing for 1,284 yards which ranks 17th in the FBS, and 11 rushing touchdowns which is tied for 35th in the nation.
My pick is UCF to cover the spread (-17), and the OVER Total of 61.5 points.
These teams share only one common opponent whom they both lost to - the Cincinnati Bearcats. UCF lost by a field goal in a 27-24 defeat in Cincinnati, whereas the Huskies were handled at home 52-14. The glaring difference between those two matchups is that UCF was competitive and Marshall was held off the scoreboard until the fourth quarter.
UCF is the better team and received somewhat of home field advantage with the Gasparilla Bowl being played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. For the Knights, homefield would play a huge factor as UCF went undefeated at home (6-0) this season.
My expectation is this matchup will have a similar outcome to Marshall’s loss to Cincinnati. Anticipate UCF’s high powered offense to score a bunch of points early and often, followed by the Huskies scoring late to keep the game respectable and cover the over of 61.5 points.
Final score prediction: UFC Wins 42-21