Central Michigan (7-5) vs Minnesota (5-7)
When: Monday, December 28th 2015
Where: Ford Field, Detroit, MI
Time: 5:00 ET | TV: ESPN2
The Minnesota Golden Gophers are one of three 5-7 teams in a Bowl game this season and they will travel to Detroit to take on the Central Michigan Chippewas. Minnesota ranked high enough on the NCAA’s Academic Progress Report after not enough teams reached bowl eligibility. The Gophers went 2-0 this season against the MAC by beating Kent State and Ohio by three points each in back-to-back games. Minnesota will be making its fourth straight bowl-game appearance, but will be doing so under coach Tracy Claeys, who took over for Jerry Kill after he resigned his position on October 28th due to health reasons. The Gophers went 1-4 under Claeys, although all four losses came against bowl-bound Big Ten teams with at least nine regular-season wins. In all, six of Minnesota’s seven losses came against opponents that either already have posted 10 victories or can reach that mark with a win in their bowl game. Running back Shannon Brooks became the first Gopher since Laurence Maroney in 2005 to have four touchdown runs longer than 35 yards in one year and finished the regular season with 644 rushing yards – the sixth-highest total for a Minnesota freshman. The 74th ranked passing attack in FBS is led by Mitch Leidner, who completed just 57.8% of his passes for 2,478 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. KJ Maye is by far the Gophers go-to receiver with 65 catches for 706 yards and 5 scores. The best part of this Gophers team is their secondary who ranked 14th in the nation in passing defense.
The Chippewas nearly played for the MAC Championship this season as they tied three other teams in the West at 6-2, but a late season 28-23 loss to Toledo did them in. Their two conference losses came by a combined seven points and their three non-conference defeats were against Oklahoma State, Syracuse, and Michigan State. Central Michigan trailed Western Kentucky 49-14 with less than 12 minutes left in the 2014 Bahamas Bowl before QB Cooper Rush connected on the first of five fourth-quarter touchdown passes – he finished with seven, the most by a quarterback in any bowl game. Rush completed 67.2 percent of his passes this season and set a single-season school record with 3,703 passing yards – good for 10th in FBS. The junior passed for multiple touchdowns in nine of his team’s 12 games and threw for four scores in two of those. Rush spreads the ball around as eight Chippewas had at least one catch that covered 25 yards and five players had at least 33 receptions, led by Jesse Kroll (59 catches for 856 yards) and Anthony Rice (56 for 584). Central Michigan’s defense was very solid this year finishing 17th overall in yards allowed and 23rd against the pass.
These teams had one common opponent this year and that was Kent State. Minnesota beat them by just 3 at home, while the Chippewas won by 13 on the road. Minnesota really struggled down the stretch albeit against stiff competition, but I really believe that Central Michigan is the better team here and I think they win outright, so taking the points is a gift.
Pick: Central Michigan +5