St Petersburg Bowl
No one expected Connecticut to be playing a 13th Game this year, yet here they are facing Marshall in the St. Petersburg Bowl. The Thundering Herd are a step below last year’s team, but still finished with nine wins. They opened up as a small -4.5 point favorite at betonline for the Game at Tropicana Field.
The Huskies finished with two wins in 2014 and were expected to once again be around that mark. However, they won their first two Games of the season and then put together a three-Game winning streak late in the year to reach six. In fact, their sixth win came at home against an undefeated Houston team. While the Cougars were without their starting quarterback, it was still an impressive win over the eventual AAC champs. That win also happened to be the only team UConn beat with a winning record.
Marshall did everything as expected this year, winning the Games they were suppose to and losing the tougher ones. In all, the Herd fell at Ohio in non-Conference play and on the road against two tougher C-USA teams in Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky. Much like Connecticut, they don’t have many great wins on the Schedule. Although a win over Purdue can’t be discounted and they took down Southern Miss 31-10 at home, which was extremely impressive considering how the Golden Eagles finished the season.
UConn wins Games by playing supreme defense and that’s kind of the only way they can win. Allowing 19.8 points per Game, the Huskies have been stout this year. against better offenses, that may not be the case and part of that stat was helped due to weaker teams in the AAC.
Marshall’s offense is scoring 32.6 points per Game and while they aren’t as good as Rakeem Cato’s squad, can still put up plenty of points. Freshman quarterback Chase Litton leads the Herd and has been pretty successful with 22 TDs and 7 INTs. Unfortunately for the offense, stud running back Devon Johnson injured his back a couple months ago and will still be out for this Game. Their backfield has been a mess of guys since and no one on the Herd has more than 86 carries or five touchdowns this year.
The Herd have been solid on the defensive end as well (18.4 points per Game allowed), but again, a lot of that is due to a stretch of weak offenses. against better teams such as Western Kentucky, they were exploited for 49 points. However, with UConn’s offense being a step below that, Marshall has the advantage on this side of the field.
Quarterback Bryant Shirreffs missed the final Game of the season for the Huskies, but he’ll be back for this one. Not that it’s a huge deal as he had just 12 total TDs and 7 INTs for the season. This is a grinding offense that will try and run the ball as much as possible. Arkeel Newsome leads the way in the backfield with 760 yards and six touchdowns. But as a team, they still only average 3.4 yards per carry, which isn’t great for a run-heavy approach.
Marshall’s weak spot is in rush defense, so that will be Connecticut’s method of attack. The Thundering Herd only lost one Game last year (and had a big bowl win) and still have a good portion of those guys on this team. Bowl Games are a new thing for the Huskies and the inexperience could hurt them.
The Huskies are 4-0-1 ATS in their last five against the C-USA, although sport a 5-7 ATS record on the year. Marshall doesn’t have any significant trend and is 7-5 ATS this season.
Our Pick – UCONN +5