Several professional bettors I speak with regularly trumpeted the job Jim Mora Jr. has done throughout this season at UConn, even nominating him for National Coach of the Year. Covering the number so regularly warrants such praise.
The Huskies are matched against a Marshall program accustomed to winning. These two will run the ball, run some more… and keep running.
While UConn relies on four runners — and a fifth on occasion in quarterback Zion Turner — Marshall’s thunder comes from Khalan Laborn, a top-20 national figure.
Here’s a look at the Myrtle Beach Bowl odds and a pick between UConn vs. Marshall.
UConn vs. Marshall Betting Lines: Point Spread, Total, Moneyline
Here are live odds from around the betting market for UConn vs. Marshall at Brooks Stadium.
NCAAF · Mon (12/19) @ 2:34pm ET
|Rentschler Field, East Hartford, Connecticut|
UConn Huskies (6-6, 9-3 Against the Spread)
The Huskies last had a winning season in 2010, at 8-5. That came during a four-year run of 33-19 when they went to four bowl games and won two.
This season, they had won five of six and had a cover stretch of seven consecutive games until a regular season-capping 34-17 defeat at Army.
Football fans at UConn hadn’t known such profitable times since 2009 when the Huskies went 10-2-1 against the number.
All thanks to Mora, the former Atlanta and Seattle boss and UCLA coach, whom some experts believe will hang around one more season before spring-boarding back into the big time.
After a five-year coaching layoff, his resuscitation of the program in Storrs, Conn., has been incredible. One scribe even flirted with the word “statue” in a story about the 60-year-old Mora.
He essentially took over with four games remaining last season to get ahead of recruiting. He had HARD printed on the wall of the team room.
“Hard things are HARD,” Mora said. “And if you don’t embrace that, if you ever give into it, then you will never get to where you want to be … firm and unyielding, resistant to pressure, not easily moved, done with great force. It’s a mindset.”
However, a peek under the hood shows some cause for concern against Marshall. On defense, UConn is middle of the road if not terrible.
Most concerning is its yield of 4.4 yards per run and 174 rushing yards a game, both in the bottom quarter of the country.
What the Huskies do best is limit opponents on fourth down, where they only allow a first down 31.8% of the time. That’s the fifth-stingiest rate in the country.
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Marshall Thundering Herd (8-4, 6-6 ATS)
Laborn started out at Florida State, injured a knee, went to a junior college after getting dismissed from the Seminoles program for violating team rules, and then he returned to Tallahassee to finish his studies.
Which is why he’s a 24-year-old tailback leading the way for the Thundering Herd.
His 1,423 yards pit him among the nation’s top-20 runners, just behind Israel Abanikanda (Pitt) and Deuce Vaughn (Kansas State) and just ahead of Eric Gray (Oklahoma) and Zach Charbonnet (UCLA).
His 16 TDs rank him among the top 10.
Laborn was a menace in his first seven games, all triple-digit efforts in yardage. He racked up 1,002 yards with 12 touchdowns. He’s been in double digits in three of his past five tilts.
The difference in the game will be Marshall’s defense, top-10 in yielding barely 18 points a game, 0.260 points per play, and 4.6 yards per play.
In third-down conversion rate, nobody in the nation is tougher than the Herd’s 25.5% allowance.
While UConn’s battery of runners might have trouble finding success, turning it over on downs as Mora determines who has the hot wheels, Laborn will be punishing the Huskies’ linebackers and creating breathing room for Marshall.
Myrtle Beach Bowl Sports Betting Recommendation & Pick
We can safely project about 30 points for Marshall, fueled by Khalan Laborn’s effective running that will set the tone of the game.
A stout Herd defense figures to keep UConn’s runners at bay, but one or two might break free. Rosa, with a team-best nine rushing TDs, is our choice to maybe pop a long one and cap a long drive with a dash into the end zone.
We can envision UConn tallying a couple of touchdowns. Toss in a field goal, too. But Laborn and the Herd defense will be too strong for the Huskies to fashion a Cinderella cap to a strong season against the spread.
Most importantly, we advise sticking to a strict rule of half-unit wagers on bowl games. The time off alone calls for prudence, and we’re all about reducing risk.
Our Pick: Over 41 (-110)