Texas Tech vs. Minnesota: Meineke Car Care Bowl Breakdown
Texas Tech (7-5) vs. Minnesota (6-6)
Dec. 28, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
• Reason to watch: This game features a program looking ahead to a promising new era against one that is struggling to escape mediocrity. The Texas Tech fan base has been energized with the recent hire of former star quarterback Kliff Kingsbury, who replaces the never-fully-embraced Tommy Tuberville in Lubbock. Offensive line coach Chris Thomsen will serve as the interim head man for the bowl game, however, and receivers coach and former Raiders quarterback Sonny Cumbie will handle play-calling responsibilities following offensive coordinator Neal Brown's departure for Kentucky. Win or lose, hopes are high that Kingsbury can return the team to the heights previously reached under Mike Leach. Meanwhile, Minnesota coach Jerry Kill doubled his win total from three to six in his second season at the helm, but the Gophers went 2-6 against weak Big Ten competition. They also had their leading receiver (A.J. Barker) quit after accusing Kill of abuse and paid $800,000 to drop two future games against North Carolina. Pulling off an upset would give Minnesota its first winning season since 2008 and provide some sorely needed positive momentum.
• Keep an eye on: Minnesota's quarterback situation. Freshman Philip Nelson had his redshirt pulled midseason and started the final six games, but it appears he'll split snaps with MarQueis Gray, who started all of last season and the beginning of this season before injuring his ankle. The athletic Gray played wide receiver upon his return because he couldn't make cuts the way he wanted, yet he has reportedly fully healed during bowl preparation. No matter who is under center, Minnesota is in dire need of a spark: The Gophers rank No. 114 in total offense and threw just one touchdown pass in their final four games.
• Did you know: Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege, who lost both his junior and senior seasons of high school to knee injuries, has 38 touchdown passes this season, just two behind the national leader (West Virginia's Geno Smith). Doege needs 66 yards to become the 10th NCAA quarterback to post at least two 4,000-yard passing campaigns. Yet after throwing for an eye-popping 13 touchdowns in a two-week stretch against West Virginia and TCU, Doege significantly tapered off. He tossed 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions in the Red Raiders' final six games.
• Final analysis: The game means more to Minnesota than it does to Texas Tech, but the Red Raiders simply have too much firepower for the Gophers to keep up. Texas Tech's defense was exposed by some potent offenses, but it should be able to contain Minnesota's sputtering attack. Look for Doege to close out his career on a high note -- and to have one of those video game-type statistical outings that Texas Tech quarterbacks have become known for.
• The pick: Texas Tech 41, Minnesota 13