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MINNESOTA vs. TEXAS TECH
Friday, Dec. 28, 9:00 pm
Reliant Stadium will host the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Minnesota and Texas Tech both come into this game with absolutely no positive momentum. The Golden Gophers started 4-0, but they have won only two of their last eight games. Texas Tech also started the season at 4-0, but they have lost four of their last five games. Texas Tech’s only win in their last five games was a 41-34 overtime victory over the lowly Kansas Jayhawks. If this matchup sounds a little familiar, there is indeed some history here. These two teams met in the 2006 Insight Bowl. Minnesota led 38-7 before blowing that massive lead and losing 44-41 in overtime against Texas Tech. That game would mark the end of the Glen Mason era at Minnesota. Both of these teams have had a pretty continuous coaching carousel going on in the last few years. Minnesota seems to have found the right guy for the job in current coach Jerry Kill. Texas Tech thought they were set for quite some time until Tommy Tubberville shocked the program by bolting for Cincinnati a few days ago. The Red Raiders are actively searching for a new head coach. Some stability would be nice for both of these programs. Offensive line coach Chris Tomsen will lead the Red Raiders in this contest.
Both of these teams have some notable bright spots on their roster, but they also have some pretty glaring weaknesses. Minnesota’s offense has been downright awful this year. The Golden Gophers have scored more than 17 points only four times all year. Who were their opponents in those games? Minnesota was able to score against UNLV, Western Michigan, New Hampshire, and Purdue. Clearly, the Golden Gophers haven’t been able to pile up the points against decent defenses this year. Freshman Philip Nelson is expected to start at quarterback for Minnesota in this game. Texas Tech’s defense was amazing through their first four games of the season. In fact, the Red Raiders were among the Top 5 defenses in the nation in the first month of the year. The defensive production went south in a hurry for Texas Tech. In the last six games of the year, the Red Raiders allowed 50 points or more four times. They didn’t allow less than 31 points in any of those final six games. Minnesota’s defense was awful the last few years, and many people expected much of the same this year. Instead, the Golden Gophers unexpectedly got a lot tougher on this side of the ball. The secondary was brilliant all year. Minnesota allowed only 179 yards per game through the air. Troy Stoudermire and Michael Carter are the leaders of this strong group. Overall, Minnesota gave up just 23.9 points per game this season.
Texas Tech has an impressive slinger in Seth Doege under center. Doege threw 38 touchdown passes on the year. He racked up 3,934 yards through the air. Eric Ward caught 11 touchdowns, while Darrin Moore brought in 13 touchdown receptions this year. Texas Tech had 11 players who caught at least 15 passes this year, so that shows you what kind of depth the Red Raiders have on offense. Texas Tech averaged 37.8 points per game this year.
It will be strength against strength in this game, and that should be the matchup to watch. Can Minnesota’s strong pass defense keep Doege and the Red Raiders out of the end zone most of the game? The Big Ten didn’t have a lot of great passers, so it’s possible that Minnesota just didn’t get tested nearly as much as they normally would.
Let’s just go ahead and state the obvious: this bowl game is one of the least anticipated matchups of the season. Still, that doesn’t mean there isn’t money to be made on this one. Tubberville leaving Texas Tech at the last moment made this game a little complicated to handicap. Minnesota certainly isn’t very good, and they played in a very weak Big Ten Conference. If Texas Tech could channel their performances from early in the year, this one could be over by halftime. Texas Tech’s running game is better than most realize. Don’t be surprised if the Red Raiders get it going on the ground early to open up the passing game. The side in this one is a very tough call, but I do think the under may be the way to play this game. I have Texas Tech winning by almost 2 touchdowns but with the line I will just tread lightly and look for a low scoring game.