Buffalo vs. Marshall Odds & Pick: Back the Herd to Cover In Christmas Day’s Camellia Bowl
Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Shadeed Ahmed.
- Buffalo and Marshall will battle in the Camellia Bowl on Christmas Day in a game between the MAC and Conference USA runners-up.
- Star Bulls running back Jaret Patterson was injured in the MAC title game, making Friday's game even more interesting for potential Buffalo backers.
- Collin Wilson breaks down the game below and shares a betting pick for the Camellia Bowl based on his analysis.
Buffalo vs. Marshall Odds
Losing in both of their respective conference championships, Buffalo and Marshall look to end the season on a high note.
A dominant second quarter from Ball State was too much for an injured Bulls squad after an impressive undefeated regular season. The Herd continued to struggle at the quarterback position, managing just eight completions against a UAB defense that didn’t record a single sack.
Both Marshall and Buffalo finished 12-2 combined on the season, going over the total in four road games. Marshall is 6-0 straight up in this series dating back to 1999, with the last meeting coming in MAC play in 2004.
The injury to Jaret Patterson was a direct factor in Buffalo’s MAC Championship loss. The running back has received Heisman mention all season but was gator rolled by the Ball State defense.
There has been no update on Patterson as of this writing, but head coach Lance Leipold was quoted saying Patterson plans on playing in the Camellia Bowl.
NO YOU DIDNT JUST GATOR ROLL AND INJURE JARET PATTERSON 😡 pic.twitter.com/SgoRWtmPWL
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) December 19, 2020
The health of the Buffalo running back is critical, as Patterson is the second-most elusive back and owns the fourth-highest yards after contact per attempt in the nation, per Pro Football Focus.
The Bulls run the ball on 66% of offensive snaps, as quarterback Kyle Vantrease has been asked to pass only as needed. Buffalo ranks outside the top 100 in passing downs attempts, a reflection of an average third-down distance of 5.9 yards.
Leipold’s defense did not hold up in the MAC Championship game, as Ball State averaged 5.3 points per trip past the 40-yard line. The Cardinals did most of their damage in standard downs, as half of Ball State’s possessions saw two or more first downs.
The Buffalo strength of schedule decreased to 135th, per Sagarin ratings, after a loss to Ball State.
Marshall Thundering Herd
One of the bigger crashes in FBS stock is Marshall, going undefeated through the first seven games before being shut out by Rice. Quarterback Grant Wells struggled against the Owls, posting five interceptions. Those struggles continued through the start of the Conference USA Championship game against UAB.
— Collin Wilson (@_Collin1) December 19, 2020
Wells would go on to finish 8-of-23 in passing and converted just 3-of-15 third and fourth down attempts.
Marshall had not been challenged all season. Its strength of schedule currently sits at 128th, per Sagarin.
UAB rang up a 64% Success Rate in standard downs, averaging seven yards per play on the ground while dominating the time of possession at 41-plus minutes.
Opt-outs will play a part in this game, as top tackler Tavante Beckett and running back Brenden Knox have declared for the NFL Draft.
Knox had 185 attempts on the season for an average of 4.8 yards per carry. Now, Sheldon Evans and Knowledge McDaniel will be asked to pick up the load.
Beckett may not be as big of a loss as expected, as he put up more missed tackles than anyone on the team. Opposing quarterbacks also completed 11-of-15 passes when targeting him.
Betting Analysis & Pick
Strength of schedule can be used as a helpful indicator in a bowl season when teams’ sample data came straight from conference play.
Both Marshall and Buffalo have had the easiest path in college football from an opponent standpoint. Even with competition from the MAC East, the Bulls managed a poor rank in Offensive Line Yards, Stuff Rate and a near bottom effort in special teams SP+.
Marshall vs. Buffalo Matchup Matrix
Wells may be limited in passing attempts in this game, as there’s a clear advantage for Marshall in the ground game.
The Herd rank top-15 in Line Yards, Power Success and Stuff Rate. The Buffalo defense sits 65th in Rushing Success Rate, as Ball State proved that sustainable drives are the best way to beat the Bulls.
The loss of Knox and his 887 rushing yards is tough from a cumulative standpoint, but McDaniel and Evans have been more explosive and elusive in their number of snaps. Both running backs have a higher yards after contact average and combined for the same number of missed tackles in 105 fewer rushing attempts.
Even with the loss of a top tackler and lead running back, head coach Doc Holliday is one of the most prepared coaches in recent post-season history. Backing Marshall has been profitable over his seven career bowl games.
Whether Patterson is a full go or not, the Marshall defense will do enough to keep the Buffalo scoring down. The Herd rank top-10 in Defensive Rushing Success Rate and first against explosiveness. Marshall does not miss many tackles, owning a PFF rank of 2nd.
While betting in 2020 has been a crapshoot with so many days in advance, the Camellia Bowl could present plenty of value on Marshall early if Patterson is announced out.
Pick: Marshall +3.5 or better