By Ryan of The Sportmeisters
The NCAA postseason kicks off Dec. 19, with 34 games being played in a three-week span. Seniors will get their last hurrah, and teams will attempt to end their seasons on the winning side, in the hopes of improving recruiting that follows afterwards.
The Sportmeisters will preview each of the 34 games that lie ahead and provide our predictions as well. Let’s get to it!
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Dec. 26, 1:00 PM, Detroit, Michigan
Ohio (9-4) vs. Marshall (6-6)
The Bobcats roll into their bowl as the MAC East Champions but ultimately lost their championship matchup against Central Michigan. Before that loss, they won four games in a row.
Ohio doesn’t boast a prolific offense or defense, but they know how to get the ball back. They are first in FBS with 36 forced turnovers, led by junior LB Noah Keller (137 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, interception). Senior LB Lee Renfro also contributed 105 tackles on the season, along with two sacks.
The Bobcats boast three receivers with at least 500 yards and five touchdowns: senior WR Taylor Price (735 yards, five touchdowns), junior WR LaVon Brazill (689 yards, six touchdowns), and junior WR Terrence McCrae (534 yards, eight touchdowns). Senior QB Theo Scott (2,258 yards, 19 touchdowns) is expected to have recovered from the ankle injury he sustained prior to the MAC Championship.
Ohio has the benefit of playing a disheveled Marshall squad with a new coach, so the weapons they possess should work in their favor.
The Thundering Herd stumbles into a bowl game, winning one of their last four to just qualify for bowl eligibility. Add to that the abrupt resignation of coach Mark Snyder (21-37 in five years), and Marshall fans probably have minimal hopes.
Nevertheless, defensive coordinator Jimmy Burrows is preparing a squad that, despite being in the lower half of most offensive categories, still boasts a 1,000-yard rusher. Junior RB Darius Marshall has 1,054 yards and 11 touchdowns on the season, even while missing the last two games of the season with an injury. He is expected to play, however.
Junior LB Mario Harvey is the heart and soul of the defense, contributing 105 tackles and five sacks.
Holding on to the ball and playing smart ball is the only way Marshall has a chance at victory.
Ohio is in its fourth bowl game, first since 2007, and is still looking for its first victory. They look for their first 10-win season since 1968, also the last time they won the MAC.
Marshall is back in the bowls for the first time since 2004, as they look for their first win since 2002. They hold a 5-2 record in bowl games.
Ohio holds the all-time advantage, 29-17-6.
With Darius Marshall back, the Herd have a chance. Ohio has given up 145.08 yards a game on the ground, and with Ohio’s ability to create turnovers, keeping the ball on the ground opens up more options.
For one, it allows an offensive line that has given up 23 sacks on the season a chance to take pressure off QB Brian Anderson. Now, should Ohio fight back with run blitzes, look for Anderson to take a few shots with single coverage on the outside. Again, though, he needs to be aware of a Marshall defense that has 20 interceptions on the season.
For Ohio, their key is the rapport that Scott possesses with Price, Brazill, and McCrae. Any one of them can turn a short pass into a touchdown, and it forces Marshall to be creative in their defensive schemes. Too many double teams on one person will open up more weapons on the rest of the field.
Ohio is the better team, and that will be shown early and often. Marshall will attempt to keep it close with the running attack, but Ohio’s speed and weapons take the game 38-14.