Buffalo Bulls running back Jaret Patterson (26) carries the ball during the first half of an NCAA college football game against the Akron Zips at UB stadium in Amherst, N.Y., Saturday Dec. 12, 2020. (AP/ Photo Jeffrey T. Barnes)
- Buffalo is a 4.5-point favorite over Marshall in the Camellia Bowl on Christmas Day (ESPN, 2:30 p.m. EST)
- Bulls star running back Jaret Patterson is expected to play after he injured his knee in Buffalo’s last game
- Read below for odds, complete analysis and a pick on the game
After both Buffalo and Marshall lost their respective conference championship games last weekend, they’re hoping to escape the holiday blues with a win in the Camellia Bowl on Christmas afternoon.
Marshall had quietly been one of the best Group of Five teams all season long with a smothering defense, but lost a stunner at home to Rice on December 5th before losing to UAB in the Conference USA Championship.
Meanwhile, Buffalo had been rolling and just broke into the AP Top 25 Poll before losing 38-28 to Ball State in the MAC Championship Game.
For most of the season, Marshall had been one of the friendliest teams to bettors in all of college football. Prior to the Thundering Herd’s last two games, they were 5-2 against the spread, and the line in this one has already moved a point to favor Buffalo at -4.5.
Marshall vs Buffalo Camellia Bowl Odds
|Marshall||+4.5 (-114)||+164||O 54.5 (-108)|
|Buffalo||-4.5 (-106)||-205||U 54.5 (-112)|
Odds taken from FanDuel on Dec. 24th
Missing in Action
One of the bittersweet things about bowl season is the decision many players make to sit out as to not jeopardize their NFL Draft potential. Buffalo hasn’t reported that any of its players will do so, but three of Marshall’s will.
Starting running back Branden Knox, who ran for 887 yards and nine touchdowns this season, announced he will sit. He’ll likely be replaced in the backfield by redshirt junior Sheldon Evans, who had just 54 carries this season for 248 yards.
On defense, the Herd must replace redshirt senior linebacker Tavante Beckett, who led the team in tackles. Offensive tackle Josh Ball has also chosen to forego the bowl game, but Marshall is better-equipped to replace him than Knox or Beckett.
2020 Heisman Trophy Odds Tracker
Patterson Available for the Bulls
Buffalo may have dodged a bullet after star running back Jaret Patterson hurt his knee in the loss to Ball State. On Tuesday, it was reported that he will be available and expected to play, but he’ll likely wear a brace, and could see a reduction in his usual workload.
Jaret Patterson punches it in to give Buffalo (-13) an early 7-0 lead pic.twitter.com/oEx9uLKajo
— Bet The Pigskin (@betthepigskin) December 19, 2020
Patterson has averaged 178 yards per game this season as the leader of the nation’s top rushing offense. As a team, Buffalo averaged more than 300 rushing yards per game. For the season, Marshall had been one of the very best defenses against the run, but in its last three, has allowed 133 yards per game – nearly 50 yards over its season average.
Should Patterson struggle or find it too difficult to play through whatever lingering affects he may be dealing with, junior running back Kevin Marks has proven himself to be a capable second option. Marks has averaged 7.8 yards on his 77 carries this season, slightly higher than Patterson’s incredible 7.6 YPC in 2020.
Struggles for Wells
Marshall has fallen off in its last two games in part due to the ineffectiveness of redshirt freshman quarterback Grant Wells.
After starting out strong this season, Wells has been underwhelming in his last two outings. Against Rice, he threw five interceptions after entering the game with just four in his previous seven games. He didn’t throw a pick against UAB, but completed an ugly 35-percent of his passes for 138 yards.
The Herd have struggled mightily in their past few games on third down, and have converted on just under 30-percent of their attempts. For the season, Buffalo has consistently been strong defending third downs and has been a top 15 defense in that category.
Marshall has been on a pretty steep downward trajectory over the last few weeks, and with several of their key players not available in this one, things don’t look like they are going to get much better. Outside of the second quarter last week against Ball State, Buffalo has been a remarkably consistent team and has should rebound from the sting of its conference championship loss on Christmas.
The Pick: Buffalo -4.5 (-106)
Nick Krueger has over a decade of experience in sports media, covering a wide range of events including two Olympic Games for Yahoo Sports. Other areas of focus for Nick throughout his career have included college football recruiting, NCAA athletics and Major League Baseball Spring Training.