Welcome to the B1G Bowl season! In previous years, we’ve previewed all of the season’s bowl games. This year however, we’re going to be looking at the Big Ten games and BCS bowl games. In other words, the only games you remotely care about. Your spinal column and eyeballs should thank us.
History: The Texas Bowl has a relatively short history, first coming into existence in 2006 as the Meineke Car Care Bowl. It replaced the now non-existent Houston Bowl that ran from 2000-2005. The game was originally tied to the Big 12, but rotated its other tie-in between the Conference USA, Big East, and Mountain West Conference. They also invited MAC member Western Michigan to play a game in 2008. Lately, the Big Ten has been its second conference of choice.
The Big Ten has visited the Texas Bowl the last three seasons and holds a 1-2 record. First Big Ten win came in their first appearance, when Illinois beat Baylor 38-14. Two years ago, Texas A&M won their last game as a member of the Big 12 conference by beating Northwestern 33-22. That was followed last season by Texas Tech picking up another win for the Big 12 by a score of 34-31. That win was over Minnesota, who now makes their second appearance in the game.
Minnesota: The Golden Gophers have been on an upward trajectory since hiring head coach Jerry Kill three years ago. The Gophers picked up strings of wins this season, including wins at offensive powerhouse Indiana, and against Penn State. Their only loses occurred to some of the better teams in the Big Ten, including their last two against Wisconsin and Michigan State. A particularly rough way to end the season.
Minnesota is led at the quarterback spot by sophomore slinger Philip Nelson. Nelson has not put up spectacular numbers this season, but has been a solid leader for the team. He has thrown 179 passes for 92 completions, 1288 yards, 9 touchdowns and 6 picks. He’s young, but he gets the job done and tries to limit his mistakes to help put his team in a position to win.
The real centerpiece for the Gophers is junior (!!!) running back David Cobb. Cobb has compiled a quiet, but stellar, resume this season. He has carried 219 times for 1111 yards and 7 touchdowns on the ground. 1000 yard rushers aren’t rare, but they’re uncommon enough to make it really stand out. That’s particularly true when he gained over 100 yards rushing against Michigan State – though we now know that rushing defense to be a bit of a paper tiger. Stay tuned for more on that in a few days.
However you slice it, Minnesota is on the right track for the future. A win in this game would be a great catapult into next season.
Syracuse: The Syracuse Orange have had a bit of a rocky season this year, with unfortunately few positives. They started out dropping their first two games, both against B1G teams, namely Penn State and Northwestern. They also lost games in crushing defeats to Clemson, Florida State, and Georgia Tech. They scraped their way into a bowl game with a close victory against Boston College in the last week of the regular season.
Terrel Hunt starts under center for the Orange. A young Sophomore, Hunt got his first playing time this season in leading his team. He has thrown for 148 completions on 244 passes, notching 1450 yards, 10 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. His numbers are not substantially different than Mr. Nelson’s, making the QB competition between these two teams a draw.
Similar to Minnesota, the Orange are led by a decent running game. Junior running back Jerome Smith was a 1000 yard rusher last season, but failed to achieve the same result this year. His 184 carries for 840 yards is good, but by no means amazing. He also added 11 touchdowns to his running yardage, as well as a receiving touchdown on only 7 receptions all season. He is going to have to be on his game to outrun David Cobb in this one.
Predictions: Your BBC Bloggers have put all their blogging earnings on the table for a winner take all competition. Here’s who each of us picked for this one.
Clearly there’s not much belief in the Orange in this one. I suspect Minnesota should have no trouble moving the football up the gut, and should run away with it.
Incidentally, “all the marbles” in this competition is a handful of peanuts – just in case anyone is curious. We play for high stakes here at the BBC.