For the first time since 2003, college football is back on Christmas Day as The Marshall Thundering Herd and Buffalo Bulls are set to meet in the seventh annual Camellia Bowl on Friday, Dec. 25, at 2:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. The game will be played at the historic Cramton Bowl in downtown Montgomery.
Marshall and Buffalo were Mid-American Conference rivals from 1999-2004. The teams have combined to win 10 MAC Eastern division titles. Marshall won six straight division titles in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002. Buffalo won four East division crowns in 2007, 2008, 2018 and 2020. The teams have met eight times previously with six of those games coming in MAC play. Marshall has won all eight meetings with Buffalo. The teams have not played since a 48-14 win by the Thundering Herd on Oct. 23, 2004. Marshall defeated Buffalo 10-8 in the first meeting between the two schools on Oct. 12, 1963.
Camellia Bowl: Marshall vs. Buffalo
Kickoff: Friday, Dec. 25 at 2:30 p.m. ET
Location: Cramton Bowl — Montgomery, AL
Live Stream: WATCH FREE HERE
It will be the sixth instance of the Camellia Bowl. The bowl game has been placed since 2014. Earlier versions of the Camellia Bowl featured the NAIA Championship, College Division Regional Final, Division II Championship and the Division I-AA Championship.
Buffalo Bulls outlook
Buffalo dominated the MAC en route to a 5-0 start. Behind a standout offensive line and running back Jaret Patterson, the Bulls won all five regular-season games by 19 or more points. However, coach Lance Leipold’s team fell short of a MAC title after a 38-28 defeat to Ball State last Friday.
Buffalo (5-1) captured the 2020 MAC Eastern Division championship, its fourth in school history. The Bulls also won MAC Eastern division titles in 2007, 2008, 2018 and 2020. The headline on offense is junior running back Jaret Patterson, who tied the NCAA record this season with eight rushing touchdowns in the 70-21 win over Kent State on Nov. 28.
Patterson finished with 38 carries for 408 yards and eight touchdowns. The 408 yards are the most by an FBS player since Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine ran for an NCAA record 427 yards in the win over Kansas State in 2014. Patterson had 301 yards and four TDs the week prior against Bowling Green. For the season, Patterson has 141 carries for 1,072 yards and 19 touchdowns in six games.
Buffalo is playing in its fifth bowl game in school history. The Bulls are coming off the first bowl win in school history following last year’s 31-9 win over Charlotte in the Bahamas Bowl. Buffalo made its bowl debut in the 2008 International Bowl at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.
UConn defeated Buffalo, 38-20. Buffalo is playing its third straight bowl game under Lance Leipold, who has compiled a 36-33 (.522) record in six seasons. Overall, he has compiled a 146-39 (.789). He compiled a 110-6 (.948) record in eight seasons at NCAA Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater. He led the school to six Division III national championships in seven years and compiled a 34-1 (.971) NCAA Playoff record.
Buffalo outgained the Cardinals 499 yards to 439 but had a field goal that was blocked, a fumble returned for a touchdown, an interception and two drives end on downs in the second half. Leipold has Buffalo trending up with a 36-33 record since he arrived in 2015. The Bulls are 23-10 overall and have won two division titles over the last three years.
Marshall Thundering Herd outlook
Marshall started its 2020 season with a 7-0 record and cracked the first edition of the CFB Playoff rankings. The Thundering Herd dominated Eastern Kentucky 59-0 in the season opener, followed by a 17-7 victory against Appalachian State on Sept. 19.
Coach Doc Holliday’s team won its first four conference games following that game, picking up wins against WKU, Louisiana Tech, FAU and Middle Tennessee, along with a 51-10 blowout versus UMass in non-conference play. However, Marshall lost a 20-0 game to Rice on Dec. 5 and dropped a 22-13 matchup to UAB in the Conference USA Championship Game last Friday.
Marshall (7-2) won the 2020 Conference USA Eastern Division Championship, its first since 2014. The Thundering Herd has won eight division titles in school, including three C-USA Eastern Division (2013, 2014 and 2020) titles. The offense is led by freshman quarterback Grant Wells, who leads C-USA in passing yards (219.7) and touchdown passes (18). He ranks second in the league in total offense with 239.4 yards per game.
Marshall is playing in its seventh bowl game in the last eight seasons. The Thundering Herd are 12-3 (.800) all-time in 15 bowl games. It’s the highest winning percentage nationally among teams with at least six bowl games.
Marshall is making its eighth bowl appearance under head coach Doc Holiday, who has compiled an 85-53 (.616) record in 10 seasons with the Thundering Herd. Marshall saw its 7-game bowl winning streak come to an end with a 48-25 loss to UCF in the Gasparilla Bowl. The first bowl game in school history took place in the 1997 Motor City Bowl. Marshall fell to Ole Miss 34-31. Marshall was also involved in the highest-scoring bowl game in NCAA history.
Marshall holds an 8-0 series edge over Buffalo. These two teams haven’t met since 2004 when both were members of the MAC. The Bulls are 1-3 all-time in bowl games. The Thundering Herd are 12-3 in 15 all-time postseason trips.
Christmas and Camellias
College football, on Christmas? Yes, the 2020 Camellia Bowl will be the first college football game on Dec. 25 since the 2003 Hawaii Bowl. The gift of a bowl trophy won’t be wrapped under the tree. Buffalo and Marshall must compete for the extra Christmas present at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, AL.
The MAC runner-up and C-USA runner-up look to shed off disappointing performances in their conference championship games and finish the season strong. Buffalo (5-1, 5-0 MAC) is only one year removed from its first bowl victory ever, and the Bulls can now make it consecutive postseason victories with a win in Montgomery.
Marshall (7-2, 4-1 C-USA) suffered a rare bowl defeat last year which snapped the program’s 7-game bowl winning streak, but the Thundering Herd still hold the FBS record for highest bowl winning percentage with a minimum of 10 games.
CAMELLIA BOWL ALL-TIME RESULTS:
Bowling Green 33, South Alabama 28 (Dec. 20, 2014)
Appalachian State 31, Ohio 29 (Dec. 19, 2015)
Appalachian State 31, Toledo 28 (Dec. 17, 2016)
Middle Tennessee 35, Arkansas State 30 (Dec. 16, 2017)
Georgia Southern 23, Eastern Michigan 21 (Dec. 15, 2018)
Arkansas State 34, FIU 26 (Dec. 21, 2019)
The Camellia Bowl has a history of producing close games, and another tight battle should be anticipated on Friday. Of the previous six matchups in this postseason game, all were decided by eight points or less. There are some similarities between these two teams with a strong rushing attack and defense during the regular season.
However, three key players for Marshall opted out, including running back Brenden Knox. On the other sideline, Patterson and Marks are expected to play, giving Buffalo a boost as it looks to rebound from the loss to Ball State.
Marshall has won two out of its last three bowl game appearances. Buffalo won the Bahamas Bowl last year.