The Syracuse Orange were a model of inconsistent consistency this season. What do I mean by this? Well, by finishing 6-6 on the year, they were just good enough to earn a bowl bid even though they didn’t win more than two games in a row all season long.
Without head coach Jerry Kill, the Minnesota Golden Gophers played inspired football. It seemed like they wanted to win for their recovering head coach every week and they were one of the final teams in contention for a Big Ten title, finishing the season with an 8-4 record.
Syracuse has struggled a bit on offense this season, particularly in the passing game which ranks 102nd in the nation in yards per game through the air. Senior quarterback Drew Allen received spotty playing time all year, passing for 666 yards and two touchdowns while sophomore Terrel Hunt started for most of the year, passing for 1,450 yards and 10 touchdowns while also rushing for 426 yards and five scores. Jerome Smith leads the 38th-best rushing offense in the nation with 840 yards and 11 scores.
Minnesota had two four-game win streaks on the season to go along with another couple of two-game losing streaks, ending the year on one of those losing streaks. Like Syracuse, the Gophers have struggled through the air this season, ranking 116th in the nation, while having more success on the ground, ranking 34th in the nation. Philip Nelson was the team’s starter on the season, completing just over 50 percent of his passes for 1,288 yards and nine scores. Running back David Cobb was the main weapon on offense, rushing for 1,111 yards and seven scores.
Defensively, the Orange have been a relatively average squad. Syracuse ranks 59th in points allowed per game as well as ranking 56th in yards allowed per game with just over 394. Minnesota has fared much better on defense this season, ranking 27th in points allowed per game as well as 43rd in yards allowed per game.
Minnesota and Syracuse will face off in the 2013 Texas Bowl in Houston, Texas, at 6 p.m. EST on Friday, Dec. 27. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN.
PREDICTION: Syracuse 17, Minnesota 31
Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.