This Friday night (6:00 pm ET) features the Texas Bowl from Reliant Stadium in Houston, TX with the Syracuse Orange (6-6) out of the ACC Atlantic Division taking on the Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-4) out of the Big 10 Legends Division. The Golden Gophers lost their final two regular season games, a 20-7 loss at home to Wisconsin in week 13 and a 14-3 loss on the road to a Rose Bowl bound Michigan St. team to close things out in week 14. The Gophers began the year with a 4-0 start, and had wins over Northwestern (20-17 in week 8) and then-number 24 Nebraska (34-23 in week 9) as highlights in conference play. Syracuse won their regular season finale over Boston College 34-31 at home, the Orange lost to Penn St. (23-17 in week 1) and Northwestern (48-27 on the road in week 2) of the Big 10, and were blown out by ACC heavyweights Clemson (49-14 in week 6) and #1 Florida St. (59-3 in week 12).
Syracuse ranks 86th among FBS teams in total offense with 375.3 yards per game and 98th in scoring offense with 22.8 points per game. The Orange have a strong running attack, ranking 39th nationally with 193.8 YPG rushing. Quarterback Terrel Hunt is a dual-threat with 1,450 yards passing and 10 TDs with 8 INTs, and 426 yards rushing with 5 more scores. Running back Jerome Smith (840 yards rushing, 11 TDs) is the leading rusher for Syracuse. Syracuse ranks 39th nationally in total defense with 368.6 YPG allowed and 60th in points allowed with 26 per game.
Minnesota ranks 105th among FBS teams in total offense with 342.8 yards per game and 79th in scoring offense with 26.4 points per contest. The Gophers are also a team with a strong running attack, ranking 34th nationally in run offense with 200.9 YPG on the ground. Quarterback Phillip Nelson does not put up big numbers in the air, with 1,288 yards passing and 9 TDs and 6 INTs, but he is an effective runner with 350 yards rushing and 7 TDs. Running back David Cobb receives the lion’s share of the carries for the Gophers with 1,111 yards rushing and 7 TDs. Minnesota ranks 41st nationally in total defense with 371.3 YPG allowed and 27th in scoring defense with 22.3 points per game allowed.
Syracuse vs. Minnesota Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Syracuse Orange +4
@ Minnesota Golden Gophers-4
Over 47.5 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Syracuse vs Minnesota Pick
Minnesota is making their second consecutive bowl appearance under Head Coach Jerry Kill, but the Gophers have lost 5 straight bowl games since their 2004 win over Alabama in the Music City bowl. The fact that they defeated Alabama in the Music City Bowl of all games tells you just how long ago this was.
Minnesota will need to run the ball well to win this game; their passing game is anemic and ranked last in the Big 10 with 141.8 YPG. In every one of the Gophers’ 8 wins this season, they ran for more than 175 yards. In the 4 losses Minnesota did not eclipse the 140-yard rushing barrier. Minnesota struggled at the end of the season, but they also played the two best teams in the Big 10 in Wisconsin and Michigan State. Syracuse was not able to win against two of the weakest teams in the Big in Pen St. and Northwestern, and struggled mightily against the best teams on their schedule. Minnesota managed to defeat a few decent teams; Syracuse cannot say the same and their offense did not show up against Clemson, Georgia Tech and Florida St. scoring a combined 17 points. The Orange’s superior ranking defensively against the run is misleading as well, as they played in a much more pass happy conference and when they played another run-heavy team in Georgia Tech they were torched for 394 yards rushing and 5.9 yards per rush. Take Minnesota to cover here.