Holiday Bowl Pick
The Holiday Bowl (in San Diego) presents an interesting matchup between two teams that finished with 8-4 records in power conferences. Washington State closed the season with back-to-back losses while Minnesota lost two of its last three. The Cougars were pushed up to -10 point favorites at 5 Dimes Sportsbook because of suspensions handed out in mid-December to the Gophers.
Those suspensions could easily alter the outcome of this Game by double-digit points. Of course, we’ll never know, but the Gophers will be without two starting defensive backs as well as a couple of their backups. against this Washington State passing attack, that’s not a good recipe for success.
The Cougars opened the season with two losses and closed the season with a pair of losses, but in between, were extremely impressive, although it can be argued they didn’t beat anyone of relevance. But even in a down year, Stanford still had nine wins, so a 42-16 win over the Cardinal can’t be discredited. However, their three toughest Games of the season were all losses.
It wasn’t much different for the Gophers outside of a nice non-Conference win against Colorado State early on. They had five Big Ten wins, but none of those came against teams with winning records. The one thing going for them is that they kept Games close, whether against Penn State, Nebraska or Wisconsin, the Gophers were never truly blown out. However, with those 10 suspensions looming over the team, it wouldn’t be surprising if it resulted in a let down.
In similar opponents, Minnesota beat Oregon State 30-23 in the opener and Washington State won at Oregon State 35-31 in the middle of the season.
Stopping this Wazzu passing attack will be extremely difficult for what is now a mostly inexperienced secondary. LUke Falk (71% completion, 37 TDs, 10 INTs) doesn’t have one of his top receivers in River Cracraft, but his options are still endless and this is a scheme-based offense. The impressive part for this offense is that they’re running the ball fairly well at 4.5 yards per carry as a team. Getting that running Game going between a trio of running backs will be important if the Cougars are going to cover.
The other side may be the more interesting part. Minnesota’s offense has improved this season, but a lot of their points have come against bottom of the barrel teams in the Big Ten.
Mitch Leidner still isn’t a good quarterback in his senior season and the Gophers are dealing with that. Fans will be happy that it’s his last year. Leidner threw just 7 touchdowns this season while tossing 12 interceptions. He has thrown at least one interception in eight of his last nine Games. But this offense has success because they can run the ball. Leidner helps out, but Rodney Smith (1,084 yards, 15 TDs) and Shannon Brooks (599 yards, 5 TDs) have been a great duo this season.
Washington State’s defensive numbers show they’re better against the run, but that has a lot to do with teams having to pass against them after being down early in Games. Both Colorado and Washington ran the ball just fine on the Cougars. With that running Game, it’s the one chance Minnesota has at being competitive, which has been the case all season. The question will be how much the suspensions affect the team, especially on the defensive end.
The Gophers are 1-5 ATS in their last six vs. the Pac-12 and 2-5 ATS in their last seven non-Conference Games. The Cougars are 1-5 ATS in their last five vs. the Big Ten and 2-5 ATS in their last seven overall.
Our Pick – Really want to root against these bonehead Minnesota Morons and their threatened boycott of the Holiday Bowl. There seems to be quite a bit of protesting and complaining going on in this country these days, without those doing the complaining having the proper facts. This would be a classic example. Get the facts before you open your mouth!
That being said, you should be wary of this play, as it certainly isn’t a strong one and may be iNFLuenced by the above.
We’re hoping that this has been nothing but a distraction for the Gophers and their preparation and that when combined with the fact that it’s a couple of defensive backs and their backups who will miss, it leads to a Washington State blowout. Washington State -10