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Andy Wittry | NCAA.com | December 22, 2019

UCF vs. Marshall: Gasparilla Bowl prediction, time, TV channel, preview

These are the must-watch bowl games (outside of CFP) in December

The 2019 Gasparilla Bowl will have Monday, Dec. 23 to itself amid this season's slate of bowl games.

So when you're itching to watch some daytime football, turn on ESPN at 2:30 p.m. ET in time for kickoff.

UCF (9-3) will look to add a 10-win season to its 2017 undefeated season and 2018 undefeated regular season, while Marshall (8-4) aims for its second consecutive Gasparilla Bowl victory.

The Thundering Herd defeated South Florida 38-20 last year.

Preview

The Knights will be the draw for many college football fans and while they took a small step back from the previous two seasons, they still rank as a top-15 team nationally, according to the SP+ rankings.

UCF's offense ranks No. 13 and its defense is No. 20 so this is a team that has produced at a high level on both sides of the ball. The Knights' three losses were by a combined seven points and all three were on the road, including games against AAC East division champion Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.

Freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel (3,393 passing yards, 9.1 yards/attempt, 27 touchdowns, seven interceptions) has been a standout, most notably in a 45-27 win over Stanford in which he threw for 347 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Wide receiver Gabriel Davis (72 receptions for 1,241 yards and 12 touchdowns) is his favorite target but 10 other players have a receiving touchdown this season so Marshall's defense will have its hands full even if it's able to neutralize Davis.

Statistically, UCF has a unique rushing attack with four running backs who have rushed for between 400 and 700 yards, more than five yards per carry and at least five touchdowns, led by Otis Anderson (665 rushing yards, 6.4 yards/carry, five touchdowns).

Collectively, that's enough production for two 1,000-yard running backs with at least 10 rushing touchdowns apiece.

Defensive lineman Brendon Hayes (7.5 sacks) is UCF's top pass-rusher, while Aaron Robinson (three interceptions, 10 passes defended) and Nevelle Clark (two interceptions, 11 passes defended) are two players to watch in the secondary.

Marshall ranks in the top 70 nationally, according to the SP+ rankings, which is higher than several Power Five teams.

The Thundering Herd's strength is its defense (No. 57) and special teams (No. 48), and UCF's explosive attack will certainly put Marshall to the test.

Marshall's best results this season were wins over Florida Atlantic (10-3), Louisiana Tech (9-3) and Western Kentucky (8-4) amid a stretch in which the Thundering Herd won six of their final seven games. Earlier in the season, they played a ranked Boise State team competitively before falling 14-7.

Running back Brenden Knox (1,284 rushing yards, 5.3 yards/carry, 11 touchdowns) is the skill player to highlight for the Thundering Herd. Also, keep an eye on tight end Xavier Gaines, who ranks fourth on the team in carries and who has two rushing touchdowns.

It's rare to see a tight end be a factor in a team's rushing attack.

On defense, defensive lineman Darius Hodge (seven sacks) is the team's top pass rusher and defensive back Chris Jackson has recorded a team-high 11 passes defended.

Marshall will have its hands full against a UCF team that was probably good enough to challenge for the Group of Five's spot in the Cotton Bowl if its schedule had been more favorable, but the Thundering Herd have played great football in the last two months against its Conference USA peers.

Prediction

UCF 37, Marshall 20

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