The Minnesota Golden Gophers will head to Houston to take on Texas Tech in the Meineke Car Care Bowl Of Texas on December 28, as they make their first bowl appearance under head coach Jerry Kill and the first for the school since 2009.
Let’s take a closer look at each team’s resume, then I’ll give some analysis and make my prediction for the game.
Key Players To Watch: QB Philip Nelson; DT Ra’Shede Hageman; DE D.L. Wilhite; RB Donnell Kirkwood; FS Derrick Wells; CB Michael Carter
Key Players To Watch: QB Seth Doege; WR Eric Ward; WR Darrin Moore; FS Cody Davis; DT Kerry Hyder; DE Dartwan Bush
Texas Tech’s strengths clearly lie on the offensive side of the ball, as Doege is at the helm of the nation’s second-best pass offense (361.9 yards per game) and he finished the regular season with 3,934 yards (sixth-most in the country) and 38 touchdowns (2nd-most in the country). The Red Raiders have two excellent wide receivers in Ward (75 receptions, 974 yards, 11 touchdowns) and Moore (81 receptions, 948 yards, 13 touchdowns), and three running backs finished the regular season with more than 400 rushing yards, led by sophomore Kenny Williams (136 carries for 779 yards, five touchdowns).
Minnesota’s offense is not nearly as prolific, especially after the departure of leading receiver A.J. Barker. Barker had 30 receptions for 577 yards and seven touchdowns prior to being sidelined by an ankle injury against Purdue in late October and later quitting the team. No other pass catcher has more than 19 catches for the Gophers, and other than tight end John Rabe (four touchdowns) no receiver currently in place has more than two touchdowns. Kirkwood will certainly be a key factor in the game, since it will be essential for the Gophers to control the ball and keep the Red Raiders’ offense off the field. It will also be interesting to see how MarQueis Gray is used in his final collegiate game, as he could see snaps under center in place of Nelson as well as at wide receiver.
For what it’s worth the Gophers do have the better defense in this game, if only because Texas Tech is not great on that side of the ball with just 16 sacks and seven interceptions all season. Minnesota will need a strong effort from their pass rush, led by Wilhite (8.5 sacks) and Hageman, and an experienced secondary led by Carter will need to make a big play or two to help tilt field position and momentum.
Score Prediction: Texas Tech 34, Minnesota 20