December 9, 2012
Big Ten Bowl Preview: Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas
TheWolverine.com continues to examine the Big Ten's bowl matchups with a look at the Dec. 28 battle between Minnesota and Texas Tech in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas ...
The Gophers were an abysmal 3-9 a year ago, but appeared much improved early in 2012 in racing to a 4-0 non-conference record, including wins over Syracuse and UNLV. The quick start proved essential for UM's bowl hopes as Jerry Kill's squad struggled throughout the conference slate and finished just 6-6 overall, barely sneaking into the postseason for the first time since a 14-13 loss to Iowa State in the 2009 Insight Bowl.
The Red Raiders also return to postseason play after suffering their first losing season since 1992 in 2011, but have dropped four of their last five games and have yielded 46.2 points per game in that time span.
Texas Tech is an early 13 point favorite, but expect the line to shift due to the surprising departure of head coach Tommy Tuberville. The third-year boss, who amassed a 20-17 (9-17) record manning the sidelines in Lubbock, has reportedly accepted the Cincinnati head coaching position, leaving behind immense uncertainty for a program that has yet to announce an interim coach.
Still, the Red Raiders lead the Big 12 in pass offense (361.9 yards per game), have scored more than 40 points seven times this year, and possess an abundance of talent on the offensive side of the ball that will challenge a serviceable, yet inconsistent UM defense.
Senior quarterback Seth Doege is the fourth-most prolific passer in the country with 3,934 yards, and has tossed 38 touchdowns against only 14 interceptions. His consistent play throughout the year has been heavily augmented by senior wide receiver Darrin Moore, who is second in the Big 12 with 13 touchdown grabs, and has accumulated 948 receiving yards on 81 receptions (7.4 yards per reception).
Minnesota's offense, which ranks an embarrassing 111th in the nation in total yardage (317.5), will rely heavily on freshman quarterback Philip Nelson. Following a solid start to his career, Nelson has completed just 40-of-90 passes (44.4 percent) for 340 yards (85.0 yards per game) and one touchdown against five picks in his past four games, and will be tested by the Big 12's best pass defense (195.8 yards allowed per game.)
Sophomore running back Donnell Kirkwood has made life easier on the rookie signal caller, rushing for 849 yards and five touchdowns, and versatile senior MarQueis Gray, who has been effective at both quarterback and wide receiver, could also put up big numbers in his final collegiate game.
But it appears as though the Gopher defense, which yielded only 23.9 points per game - its best defense output since 2004 - will have to sieze the day if Kill and company are to realize bowl triumph for the first time since a 20-16 upset over Alabama in the Music City Bowl eight seasons ago. Fifth-year senior All-Big Ten defensive tackle D.L. Wilhite registered 8.5 sacks this year and is capable of making an impact rushing the quarterback and senior safety Troy Stoudermire provides a steady influence for a UM defensive backfield that has given up only 178.5 yards per game through the air in 2012.
Texas Tech is 7-3 in its last 10 bowl contests, including a 44-41 victory over Minnesota in the 2006 Insight Bowl. The Gophers are 5-9 all-time in postseason play and 0-3 against the Big 12.
meineke car care bowl
|color="#000000">Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas|
- Dec. 28 - Houston, Texas
|color="#ffcc00">Minnesota (6-6)||vs||color="#ff0000">Texas Tech color="#ff0000">(7-5)|
and Television: 9:00 p.m., ESPN
Line: Texas Tech -13
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