As the Frisco Bowl kicks off on December 19 under the gleaming lights of Texas, fans eagerly anticipate a showdown between UTSA and Marshall that could leave a lasting mark. The aroma of Scooter’s Coffee fills the air as a prelude to a night where the Roadrunners and Thundering Herd battle at 9 p.m. ET.
This matchup carries a unique flavor as it pits former Conference USA rivals against each other in a new conference landscape. Marshall made the leap to the Sun Belt for the 2022 season, while UTSA embraced its first year in the AAC. The Roadrunners finished 7-1 in its new conference home and 8-4 overall. Marshall finished 3-5 in Sun Belt play and 6-6 overall. The shift in conferences adds an intriguing layer to their historical rivalry, setting the stage for a battle that transcends past matchups. The Thundering Herd is bowl-eligible for the seventh straight year. UTSA is in a bowl game for the fourth consecutive year.
Fancher’s Absence and Pennington’s Call
Marshall faces a quarterback conundrum with a major transfer triggering a double-digit spread. Cam Fancher, pivotal to the Thundering Herd’s offense, visited football powerhouses LSU and NC State, raising questions about his participation in the bowl game. This opens the door for Cole Pennington, son of former NFL QB Chad Pennington, to step into the spotlight.
Pennington, a freshman with limited playing time, shoulders the responsibility of leading Marshall against a formidable UTSA. While the drop-off from Fancher may not be as substantial as some predict, uncertainties linger, especially considering star running back Rasheen Ali‘s potential absence.
UTSA’s Motivation: Harris’s Farewell and Defensive Strength
UTSA enters the Frisco Bowl with a clear motivational factor. Quarterback Frank Harris, in his final college appearance, seeks to leave a lasting legacy. Despite a slow start attributed to Harris’s early-season turf toe, the Roadrunners rallied to seven consecutive victories before a setback against Tulane in the regular season finale.
Defensively, UTSA boasts resilience, with only EDGE Trey Moore absent from their regular-season lineup. Moore, tied for third in sacks, could have further disrupted Marshall’s offense. However, UTSA’s defense remains sturdy, allowing just 4.89 yards per play against unranked opponents.
Pennington’s Trial and Ali’s Possible Absence
With uncertainty surrounding Marshall’s quarterback position, Pennington faces a trial by fire. His 49-of-79 record for 437 yards and a 6/3 TD/INT ratio in three games, including starts against Georgia Southern and South Alabama, provides a glimpse into his potential. The departure of sophomore Fancher and the speculated absence of Ali pose challenges for Marshall’s offensive dynamics.
Ali’s impact during the regular season, with 1,043 yards and 14 touchdowns, underscores his significance. In his potential absence, Marshall must recalibrate its offensive strategy against a motivated UTSA defense.
Game Prediction: Under 53 Points and Defensive Showdown
Analyzing the game dynamics, including Pennington’s untested status and Marshall’s offensive struggles, suggests a lower-scoring affair. Marshall, with a top-20 defense in third-down conversion rate and situational strength, poses a formidable challenge. Quarterback change adds uncertainty, intriguingly predicting under 53 points for fans expecting a defensive showdown.
Conclusion: Anticipating a Historic Frisco Bowl Clash
As the Frisco Bowl looms large, the clash between UTSA and Marshall promises to be a spectacle. The conference shifts, quarterback uncertainties, and impactful players create an exciting atmosphere.