The final Friday bowl game is the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas as the Texas Tech Red Raiders travel to Houston to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers in this Big 12-Big 10 showdown. The Golden Gophers finished a 6-6 campaign with four of their wins coming out of conference. The Red Raiders also had a losing conference record but finished 7-5 with nice wins over TCU and West Virginia and tough losses to Baylor and Oklahoma State to finish the season. The Red Raiders strength is definitely their offense while the Golden Gophers offense has struggled throughout the season. This game could get out of hand in a hurry, and I think the Red Raiders win this one easily. Check out the breakdown below.
When to Watch: 9:00 PM ET, Friday, December 28, 2012
Where to Watch: Live on ESPN from Reliant Stadium, Houston, Texas
What to Watch for
When Minnesota has the ball: Minnesota’s offense has been horrible for most of the year. Of the 124 teams in the FBS they rank 99th in scoring offense, 108th in passing offense, and 114th in total offense. In their last nine games, they scored more than 17 points only once. The Golden Gophers have started three different quarterbacks this season and will enter this game with freshman Philip Nelson under center. Nelson threw for 735 yards, six touchdowns, and seven interceptions this year. To add to the Gophers offensive issues, they’re leading receiver A.J. Barker quit the team after allegations of mistreatment by coach Jerry Kill. They’ll struggle to get anything going against a Red Raiders defense that’s starting to show major improvement.
There was plenty of room for Texas Tech’s defense to improve from it’s 2011 final numbers. In 2011, the Red Raiderw were 114th in total defense allowing over 485 yards a game, but improved this year to finish in the top 40 allowing just 367.3 yards this year. They actually ranked second in the Big 12 it total defense, but still gave up way too many points down the stretch and failed to force any turnovers in their last five games. The Red Raiders defense isn’t great, but Minnesota’s offense is far from the level they’re used to playing in the Big 12.
When Texas Tech has the ball: Normally the Red Raiders offense is trying to score points to make up for their defense which has resulted in some mammoth offensive numbers. Quarterback Seth Doege should surpass 4,000 yards in this game, entering play with 3,934 yards and 38 touchdowns to go with his 14 interceptions. He threw for 300+ yards a total of nine times this year with a season high 499 against West Virginia along with six touchdowns (he threw for seven the following week against TCU).
Doege’s targets are spread out between wide receivers Eric Ward (75 catches, 974 yards, 11 touchdowns) and Darrin Moore (81 catches, 948 yards, 13 touchdowns). He’ll also get another weapon back in his arsenal as Jace Amaro has been medically cleared to return after missing the last six games of the regular season.
The passing defense of Minnesota that faces the daunting task of slowing the Red Raider on-slaught has been solid all year. In fact they rank 11th in the nation defending the pass although some of that is definitely due to their schedule. They did play Ryan Nassib of Syracuse and limited him to 228 yards and forced a pair of picks early in the season, but gave up over 300 yards to Taylor Martinez of Nebraska two games ago in their loss to Nebraska.
Overall, the Gophers D was solid ranking 38th in scoring defense, 29th in total defense, and 77th in rushing defense. Some of that is a result of playing in the run-heavy Big 10. The defense will be tested against Texas Tech as they have yet to be this season and with all the turmoil at Minnesota it’s hard to see them stopping the Red Raiders cold which is what they’ll have to do to compensate for their offense. It seems like too much to ask especially in Houston where the Red Raiders are sure to have a good following.
Who to Watch for (NFL Prospects)
Texas Tech’s Seth Doege is one of the top 20 QB prospects but probably will end up as a late-round pick due to concerns with his durability and consistency. Another possible Red Raider selection is safety Cody Davis who was All-Big 12 second team and leads Texas Tech with 91 tackles and three interceptions.
From Minnesota, MarQueis Gray could be a late-round selection after playing wide receiver, quarterback, and running back at Minnesota. He’s an elite athlete and an NFL team may look to add speed and playmaking ability. Cornerback Troy Stoudermire could also go late in the draft from Minnesota after leading the Gophers in tackles and leading Minnesota’s kick return game as well. He had three pass-breakups and 3.5 tackles for loss and could add depth as a nickle or slot corner although he lacks the ideal size for the position.
The Red Raiders offense should propel them to a convincing victory here over an overmatched Minnesota team. The tricky part of this pick comes with the spread which currently sits around 13 points. While that’s a lot of points to give, I think the pick is still Texas Tech since they pile up enough points to get the cover. Both teams are 4-6 against the spread in their last 10 games but Minnesota has only been able to cover twice in their eight games as underdog while Texas Tech is 4-2 as the favorite. In addition, in the last four Meineke Car Care Bowls the margin of victory was 20.3 points per game. Look for a Red Raider rout in their home state bowl as they win under interim coach Chris Thomsen.