The age old debate about whether good offense or good defense wins big games will be on display at the 2013 Texas Bowl. The Minnesota Golden Gophers, which averaged over 30 points per game in the heart of their season, will face off against the Syracuse Orange and its stout defensive front on Friday, December 27th at 6 pm (EST) at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. Minnesota returns for a second consecutive time, while Syracuse make its first Texas Bowl appearance.
Texas Bowl History
A relatively new FSB Division I bowl, the very first Texas Bowl was played in 2006 with Rutgers pummeling Kansas State, 37-10. Houston, with its history of hosting both the Bluebonnet and Houston Bowls, was awarded this post season contest with the Big 12 and Big 10 as conference partners. Reliant Stadium, the Houston Texans’ home turf, offers an impressive venue for this game.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
After getting off the a fast start with four straight non-conference wins to open the season, the Gophers dropped their first two conference games to Iowa and Michigan. Yet, Jerry Kill was able to rally his team and the Gophers went on to rattle off four straight conference wins. While they fell short against Michigan State and Wisconsin to close the season, they showed grit and determination in those games. At 8-4, they are coming off a successful Big 10 campaign and are looking to give Jerry Kill his first bowl win.
Golden Gopher Player To Watch:
As a run oriented team, look to David Cobb, who averaged 106 yard of total offense this season, to set the Gophers up for success via old fashioned ball control offense. Jerry Kill’s squad will most likely rely on Cobb to pick up consistent chunks of yards on the ground while the defense continues its solid play.
This has been a season of transition for the Orange as they have adjusted to their first year in the ACC and worked through the growing pains of a first year head coach and a quarterback controversy. The defense has been a strength for the team all year long, keeping them in several games. Unfortunately, the inconsistencies at the quarterback position stalled far too many drives. At 6-6, the Orange are coming into this bowl game looking to build an identity for next year.
Orange Players to Watch:
The defensive front, lead by Jay Brumley, will be huge is the Orange wants to stop Minnesota’s run game. Though their outstanding defensive back Durell Eskridge leads the teams with 78, the D-line and linebackers must step up so that Minnesota’s running backs do not make it to the second level.
Minnesota is a 4.5 point favorite over Syracuse, due to the strength running the ball and its solid defense. If the Golden Gophers have success running the ball through the Syracuse line and can keep their third downs manageable, they will chew up the clock and win the game. If Syracuse can force Minnesota to throw the ball, then Durell Eskridge may be able to create havoc in the secondary with pressure coming from the Orange pass rush. In either case, this does look like a very competitive game, featuring strength on strength.