College football fans will be getting a special Christmas present in the 2020 Camellia Bowl. This will be the second bowl game played at the legendary Cramton Bowl in two days and will be televised by ESPN with a 1:30 p.m. Central start time. The seventh edition of the game will feature a pair of teams that are coming off disappointing conference championship losses. Both the Marshall Thundering Herd (7-2) and Buffalo Bulls (5-1) are looking to get that bad feeling out of their system.
In the first six years of the game, the average margin of victory has been five points. This will be the first year that does not have a Sun Belt team participating. This will just be the third appearance for Conference USA and the fourth for the MAC. Conference USA is 1-1 and the MAC is 1-3.
2020 Camellia Bowl Preview
The Buffalo Bulls started the season 5-0 before losing to Ball State 38-28 in the MAC Championship Game. This is the third consecutive bowl appearance for the Bulls. In their 5-0 start, the average margin of victory was 30.8 points.
The team is led by their rushing attack that was the best in the MAC this season. In the Bulls backfield is MAC leading rusher Jaret Patterson that caught the attention of the nation this season. In a game against Kent State, Patterson rushed for 409 yards and a recording tying eight touchdowns. That was not his only big performance though. Against Bowling Green, Patterson ran for 301 yards and four touchdowns. Also in the backfield is Kevin Marks, who was fourth in the MAC with 603 yards. In 2019, Marks rushed for 1,035 yards and eight touchdowns. To beat the Bulls, it is key to contain these two backs.
On the defensive side of the ball, Buffalo has a very solid unit. They ranked second in the MAC allowing just 379.2 yards per game and 23.8 points. Upfront they are led by Malcolm Koonce with five sacks that were tied for second place in the conference. The team as a whole was fourth in the MAC with 16 overall sacks.
Marshall Thundering Herd
Like the Bulls, the Marshall Thundering Herd started the season strong but struggled down the stretch. Marshall started 7-0 and looked unstoppable in Conference USA. During that streak, they averaged 37.4 points and were allowing just 10.1. In the last two games in losses, the Herd has averaged just 6.5 points per game and allowing 21 points per.
The play of quarterback Grant Wells has been a huge cause for the drop-off. Wells leads Conference USA with 1,977 yards and 18 touchdowns. On the season he also has a 61% completion rate. In the two losses to Rice and UAB, he has completed just 45% and has thrown five-interception. In the Conference USA Championship, he found himself on the bench for a stretch after missing on his first ten throws. The Herd needs the quarterback from earlier in the season, to win in Montgomery.
Despite the offensive struggles, the defense has been tops in the conference throughout the season. They rank first in points allowed (12.6), yards per game (277.7), and sacks (25). Two of the leaders from that unit play in the front seven. Senior linebacker Tavante Beckett is second with 90 tackles on the season and added in two sacks. On the defensive line, junior Darius Hodge is third with 6.5 sacks.
2020 Camellia Bowl Prediction
An intriguing match-up in this game will be the Bulls rush attack versus the Herd defense. If the struggles of Wells continue, the Marshall defense might just have to win the game for them. That will most likely lead to Buffalo winning this one. The Bulls will struggle at times, but they will find enough offense to win a lower scoring contest 20-14.