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Posted: Wednesday December 21, 2005 4:31PM; Updated: Thursday December 22, 2005 1:00PM
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Bowl Breakdown: Music City
Minnesota (7-4) vs. Virginia (6-5)
Dec. 30, Noon (ESPN)
The Coliseum (67,000)
Nashville, Tenn.

SI.com's Stewart Mandel analyzes the matchup.

Breaking down Minnesota

Junior Laurence Maroney headlines an extremely talented Minnesota backfield.
Junior Laurence Maroney headlines an extremely talented Minnesota backfield.
Tom Dahlin/SI

As has become their trademark, the Gophers produced one of the nation's most powerful ground games. Running behind a highly skilled, veteran line led by Outland Trophy-winning center Greg Eslinger, tailbacks Laurence Maroney, Gary Russell and Amir Pinnix combined for 2,760 yards. Quarterback Bryan Cupito isn't flashy but gets the job done, though his receivers aren't particularly strong.

Minnesota's defense was once again its downfall, allowing 44 or more points in losses to Penn State, Ohio State and Iowa. The Gophers produced just 14 sacks this season. Freshman end Steve Davis was a pleasant surprise, and tackle Anthony Montgomery is a steady performer. The secondary was routinely burned for big passing plays.   

Breaking down Virginia

The Cavs will be without both offensive coordinator Ron Prince and defensive coordinator Al Golden, who took head coaching jobs at Kansas State and Temple, respectively. Virginia's offense was up-and-down. Quarterback Marques Hagans put on a one-man show in a win over Florida State, but struggled in most losses. Injury-plagued tailback Wali Lundy ran for just 515 yards.

Virginia boasts a pair of future NFL linebackers in Ahmad Brooks and Kai Parham, but an overmatched defensive line struggled to stop the run. Defensive end Brennan Schmidt is a solid pass-rusher. The Cavs' most reliable weapon may be kicker Connor Hughes, who made 19-of-22 field-goal attempts.   

Final Analysis

Virginia ended the season with losses to Virginia Tech and Miami. And since then, the program has been in chaos, losing three key assistants. Meanwhile, Minnesota coach Glen Mason has won three straight bowl games. The Gophers should be able to ride their powerful running game to victory.

The pick: Minnesota 28, Virginia 17.

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