We have made it to College Football Bowl season! Our Minnesota Golden Gophers finished the season at 8-4 and earned a spot in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl against the West Virginia Mountaineers, who finished 6-6 on the year and 6th place in the Big 12. The game will be played at Chase Field in Phoenix, AZ, home of the MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks. It looks to be a pretty unique setting! Minnesota, rightfully so, comes into this matchup as 5-point favorites… and I honestly think the Gophers got disrespected by being put into this matchup. This is what the committee chose for this Bowl game, so let’s dive into each team and what to expect!
West Virginia: The Mountaineers finished the season going 4-2 (including winning their final 2 games) in order to get to 6 wins and become bowl eligible. They will be without their clear-cut top RB, who opted out for the NFL draft, as well as possibly missing a starting LB and CB and a few other offensive players. QB Jarret Doege does lead a pass-centric Mountaineer Offense, but that offense has played off good running games from their RB that will not be playing. This is going to be an extremely tough game for West Virginia to consistently get drives going and to be able to score points. Minnesota’s defense held opponents to 18 ppg and allowed the 4th fewest ypg in the nation. The Gophers defense also slowed opposing QBs to complete just 55% of their passes, which was 7th amongst FBS programs.
Minnesota: The Gophers will be looking to win its 5th straight bowl game and 3rd in a row under PJ Fleck. They also finally said goodbye to their QB/OC Coach, Mike Sanford Jr. It was evident that after the Illinois loss, a change was desperately needed. The final 3 games of the season saw a much more balanced and productive attack on offense. We haven’t fully seen the return of 2019 Tanner Morgan, but we were able to see a much more familiar version of him in the last 3 games of the season. Matt Simon took over the OC duties and after about a month to prepare for this bowl game, I think we are going to see an offensive attack more like how 2019 looked. Most people are expecting the Gophers to run all night with Thomas and Irving and play smothering defense, but I believe the passing game to Autman-Bell, Wright, Brown-Stephens, and Jackson is going to surprise a lot of people.
The Minnesota Gophers are a much better team than West Virginia and I really don’t see this one finishing close. Both teams did play against Maryland this season...the Gophers beat them by 18 points and West Virginia lost to Maryland by 6 points. I think the Gophers are going to beat the shit out of the Mountaineers to the tune of about 31-10. My father’s prediction is MN 34-13 and my brother’s prediction in MN 27-13. No matter the final score in this one, let’s hope everyone avoids any major injuries and that both teams and fanbases enjoy their time in Phoenix! The 2022 season for the Gophers is already looking very promising with many returning players and key coaches into the mix. Could be another magical season just around the corner! Go Gophers, beat West Virginia tonight!