UCF vs. Marshall: Gasparilla Bowl preview and picks against the spread

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UCF (9-3) vs. Marshall (8-4)

Location: Tampa | When: Dec. 23 (2:30 p.m. ET) | TV: ESPN | Line: UCF -17.5

HOW THESE TEAMS GOT HERE

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UCF: After a 25-game win streak was broken on Jan. 1 by LSU, UCF’s longest win streak in 2019 was three games. The Knights started 3-0 before losing a stunner to Pitt. A win over UConn followed before another loss to Cincinnati.

A second three-game win streak got UCF to 7-2 but the Knights lost at Tulsa on Nov. 8 before finishing the season at 9-3. If you want some perspective on that long win streak, UCF had three losses from Nov. 26, 2016, through the first day of 2019.

Freshman UCF QB Dillon Gabriel has played well in 2019. (AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.)
Freshman UCF QB Dillon Gabriel has played well in 2019. (AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.)

Marshall: Marshall can boast a win streak longer than UCF’s this season. The Herd started 2-3 after back-to-back losses to Cincinnati and Middle Tennessee State. That turned into a 7-3 record after five-straight wins. That stretch included a win over Conference USA champ Florida Atlantic and victories over fellow bowl teams Louisiana Tech and Western Kentucky.

The Herd lost to Charlotte in the penultimate week of the season but finished 8-4 with a final week win over Florida International. 

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH

For moments like this:

This is why you should watch the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl. (via ESPN)
This is why you should watch the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl. (via ESPN)

PLAYERS TO WATCH

UCF QB Dillon Gabriel: The starting job was expected to be Brandon Wimbush’s in 2019 after he transferred from Notre Dame. Instead, Wimbush got derailed by injuries and the true freshman Gabriel has played really well. Gabriel has thrown for 3,393 yards on 222-of-375 passing with 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions. With the status of McKenzie Milton still up in the air for 2020 after that horrific knee injury he sustained in 2018, Gabriel could be the starter at UCF for the next few years. 

Marshall LB Omari Cobb: A four-year contributor, Cobb has blossomed as a defender capable of blowing plays up in the backfield in 2019. Cobb has just two sacks but has 17 tackles for loss among his 107 stops this season. He’s been everywhere in the second half of the season too. Cobb hasn’t recorded fewer than nine tackles in any of UCF’s final six games of the season. 

Omari Cobb has over 100 tackles in 2019. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
Omari Cobb has over 100 tackles in 2019. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)

NFL DRAFT PROSPECT

UCF S Richie Grant: This game has been stripped of some of its NFL draft heft, as UCF WR Gabriel Davis and RB Adrian Killins Jr. are not expected to play in the game after declaring for the draft. Grant is a redshirt junior and has yet to make a call on whether or not to declare. He also hasn’t been as productive this season, failing to intercept a single pass one year after picking off six. Scouts are mixed on him, but he has tightened up his tackling and coverage in the second half of the season.

- Eric Edholm

WHAT’S ON THE LINE

UCF: A win on Monday coupled with bowl losses by Florida and Florida Atlantic would tie UCF for the most wins among schools in the state of Florida in 2019. No matter what else the other two schools do, a win would also give UCF a third-straight season with 10 or more wins.

Marshall: The Thundering Herd has to keep the bowl streak going. Marshall’s last bowl loss came in 2004 at the Fort Worth Bowl. A win over UCF would be the eighth-straight bowl win for the program and a fourth in Tampa. 

PICKS

Nick Bromberg: Marshall +17.5

Sam Cooper: Marshall +17.5

Picks from the Yahoo Sports College Podcast

Pat Forde:  UCF -17.5

Pete Thamel: Marshall +17.5

Dan Wetzel: Marshall +17.5

Sean Sullivan: UCF -17.5

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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