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This years St. Petersburg Bowl features the Marshall Thundering Herd (9-3, 6-2 C-USA) and the Connecticut Huskies (6-6, 4-4 AAC). The match-up will showcase two of the country’s top defenses and currently has a line of -5 in favor of the Herd. Let’s dig into this one a little further…

When: Saturday, December 26, 2015, 11:00 AM

Where: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, FL

TV: ESPN

How they got there:

Marshall:

Marshall's Doc Holiday claps for his players during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Western Kentucky on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, at L.T. Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Ky. (Michael Noble Jr./AP)
(Michael Noble Jr./AP)

The Herd have had quite a long season. Potential award-winning RB Devon Johnson was hurt during the first part of the season and would never return. The same would be told for offensive lineman Clint Van Horn. Marshall also lost two of the best offensive players in school history in QB Rakeem Cato and WR Tommy Shuler to graduation. That left the Herd with a true freshman quarterback by the third game and a lot of big shoes to fill. Marshall took down Power Five opponent Purdue 41-31 in their opening game, but suffered their first loss the following week against the Ohio Bobcats 21-10. When the offense literally didn’t move all game, Coach Doc Holliday decided it was time to give Chase Litton the go-ahead at quarterback. In his first game as a starter, Litton threw for 270 yards and four touchdowns and led the Herd to a 45-7 victory. After a close call against Kent State the following week, Marshall would be smooth sailing until their away game against Middle Tennessee on November 7th. Four missed field goals and three OT’s later, the Herd would fall to the Blue Raiders 27-24. The team still had a chance at a conference championship, however. Wins against FIU and Western Kentucky would have put them in the championship game for the third straight year. Marshall would go on to embarrass the Golden Panthers 52-0 in what was a very memorable November 14th for all of Herd Nation. Unfortunately for the Herd, the bye week wouldn’t help them hold up their end of the bargain against WKU. Brandon Daughty slaughtered the Marshall defense for the second year in a row, leading the Hilltoppers to a 49-28 win. That loss put the Herd at 9-3 on the season and 6-2 in conference play, which is where they sit in preparation for their bowl game against UConn.

Connecticut: 

(Getty Images)

The Huskies have had a much more exciting season, even if their record might not show it to the normal college football fan. After a two-win season in 2014, UConn used a three game win streak, including the defeat of #13 Houston, to earn its bowl birth. It wasn’t long ago that this team was in the Fiesta Bowl, but this is their first winning season since 2010. The Huskies’ defense has a lot to boast this year and is the reason for such success. AAC First Team cornerback Jamar Summers had a conference high seven interceptions in 2015. The UConn scoring defense was ranked in the NCAA’s Top 20. Just ask #22 Missouri, the Huskies held them to 9 points in the third game of the season and could have beaten the Tigers had they not turned the ball over with less than a minute remaining. That and the upset of Houston were probably the best games they played defensively all season long. Offensively it seems as though Connecticut has struggled all year. Only averaging around 19 PPG, the Huskies’ offense has failed to put up 15 points five times and broke the 30 point barrier twice. Their final game against Temple was arguably the worst loss they suffered this season. The 27-3 defeat put UConn at 6-6 and 4-4 in conference play headed into the bowl game with Marshall.

Teams’ Biggest Advantage and Keys to Success:

Marshall: The biggest advantage for the Thundering Herd in this one will be Connecticut’s lack of superb offense. Marshall has faced many talented offenses this season, including Southern Miss, who the Herd held to just 10 points. The Huskies’ offense won’t likely pose the same threat that USM and WKU did to the Herd, which is why that advantage goes to Marshall. The key for the Herd will be finishing their drives on offense. That’s something they have struggled with all year. Missed field goals have resulted in many empty drives and can put a lot of pressure on the defense. If Marshall wants to win this one, they’ll have to prove to the stout Huskies defense that they can score on them.

Connecticut: The biggest advantage for the Huskies is also their defense. They certainly aren’t counting on the offense in this one if they haven’t been the rest of the year. The 13th nationally ranked defense will look to contain a much less dominant Marshall offense. Yes, the Herd is averaging 32 PPG, but they haven’t been able to show any offensive consistency, and that could be the key to UConn’s success. As I said before, Marshall has failed to finish many of their drives this season. Forcing a field goal is going to be a huge win for the Connecticut defense when it comes game time.

My Prediction: Marshall has struggled a lot recently with play calling offensively. I think a lot of emphasis will be put on how the Herd can move the ball against the Huskies. Both defenses are going to play an outstanding game, but I think the killer for UConn is going to be their offense. The defensive adjustments made by Herd DC Chuck Heater will continue to confuse the opposing Offensive Coordinator. I think Marshall jumps out to a quick lead courtesy of Deandre Reaves and I don’t think they’ll ever look back. MARSHALL 34, UCONN 17

Fun side note: A win for Marshall would give them 10 wins for the 3rd season in a row. They would be the only Group of Five team who accomplished such a feat.

Casey covers Marshall Thundering Herd Football for MFST. You can follow him on twitter @wxmozz

 

https://i0.wp.com/www.myfantasysportstalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/a-12.jpg?fit=534%2C401&ssl=1https://i0.wp.com/www.myfantasysportstalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/a-12.jpg?resize=150%2C150&ssl=1Casey MosrieAmerican AthleticAnalysisConference USAFootballNCAAFNews and UpdatesRecent Postsamerican conference,bowl game,College Football,conference usa,Connecticut,Marshall,Marshall football,st petersburg bowl,UConn,uconn footballThis years St. Petersburg Bowl features the Marshall Thundering Herd (9-3, 6-2 C-USA) and the Connecticut Huskies (6-6, 4-4 AAC). The match-up will showcase two of the country's top defenses and currently has a line of -5 in favor of the Herd. Let's dig into this one a little...Why go anywhere else for sports and entertainment?