The Christmas Day Bowl showdown between Marshall and Buffalo may look like a terrific matchup on paper, but injuries and opt-outs have the potential to derail that notion.
Marshall will be without at least three key pieces - most notably RB Brenden Knox, who has elected to sit out this game and forego his senior season to enter the NFL Draft. Knox was really one of the only things the Thundering Herd offense had going for it down the stretch with redshirt freshman QB Grant Wells struggling mightily. The Herd enter this contest off consecutive losses against Rice and UAB, scoring only 13 points in the process.
Knox isn't the only notable absence, however, as Marshall will be without its top tackler and C-USA Defensive Player of the Year Tavante Beckett, who has also elected to opt-out.
Buffalo has concerns of its own, with RB Jaret Patterson nursing a knee injury suffered in last week's stunning MAC Championship Game loss to Ball State. Patterson had run for a whopping 815 yards and 14 touchdowns over his last three games before last week's misstep against the Cardinals. While Patterson is expected to play in this game, he'll likely be wearing a knee brace and it remains to be seen how effective he can be, or whether he'll see a full workload.
Both teams feature starting quarterbacks that showed flashes of brilliance over the course of the season but are best suited to 'game manager' roles in my opinion. Note that last week's contest marked the first time Buffalo QB Kyle Vantrease attempted more than 27 passes in a game this season, and we know how that one went for the Bulls. Marshall QB Wells has thrown more than two touchdown passes just twice in eight games against FBS opponents this season.
The Bulls are currently installed as 5.5-point favorites.