Quick Lane Bowl - Detroit, MI
Central Michigan vs. Minnesota
Monday, December 28, 2 pm PT - ESPN2
Minnesota -5.5 O/U 49.5
Minnesota -6 O/U 48
Minnesota wasn’t expecting to play another game in 2015 after a regular season finale loss to Wisconsin dropped its record to 5-7. But thanks to their efforts in the classroom (ranking high in the Academic Progress Rating) and due to a lack of clubs with winning records to fill in spots, the Golden Gophers will play in their seventh bowl game in the last 10 seasons. This was a tough year as head coach Jerry Kill was forced to leave due to his declining health and longtime assistant Tracy Claeys replaced him and was given a three-year contract soon afterwards.
Heading into the season, it looks as if it was going to be a rebuilding year for Central Michigan. But under first-year head coach John Bonamego, CMU won five of its last six games to become bowl eligible for the sixth straight season. Last year's Bahamas Bowl game will be remembered by many fans and bettors when Central Michigan pulled off a triple lateral, 75-yard trick play for a touchdown to pull within a point of Western Kentucky, only to lose 49-48 with no time on the clock after a failed two-point conversion.
The strength of schedule nod obviously goes to Minnesota who squared off against six teams that were ranked at game time including back-to-back road trips to Ohio State and Iowa. It's actually impressive that the Gophers outgained Big Ten opponents on a yards per play basis (5.48-5.20) despite winning only two conference games. That was instrumental in Minnesota's ability to hang around in games but it's lack of a truly dominant facet also made it difficult to pull away. It’s why three of Minnesota's five wins came by a field goal. Note that they were outgained by nearly 100 yards against Illinois in a game that was 24-23 before a fluke UM touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Overall, Minnesota's lone "dominant" win came against Purdue who won only one game against FBS competition.
Central Michigan's slate wasn't as strong but they still faced a decent group of foes
and in every instance showed well. In games against Oklahoma State, Michigan State, Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, and Toledo, the Chippewas were outgained by a modest 5.8-5.5 yards per play. More importantly, CMU covered four of those five contests. I think they're capable of adding to those results. The Chippewas don't excel in one specific category but rather thrive on playing sound football across the board. And as mentioned, Minnesota just doesn't have the offense or defense to win games against comparable competition by margin. Take the points.