Game: West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Time: 10:15 p.m. ET
Odds: Mountaineers +5, Golden Gophers -5
Minnesota enters tonight’s Guaranteed Rate Bowl after winning six of its final eight games to finish the season 8-4. Head coach P.J. Fleck and his Golden Gophers will strap it up one more time against the Big 12’s West Virginia Mountaineers who finished 6-6 this season.
It’s been all about defense and the running game for Fleck and the Gophers. Minnesota averages 193.8 yards rushing per game. The Gophers lost star RB Mohamed Ibrahim in the very first game of the season after he had gained 163 yards on 30 carries against Ohio State. The Gophers then went to running back by committee and ended up with three running backs with at least 500 rushing yards.
Ky Thomas led Minnesota with 680 yards on the ground. Mar’Keise Irving added 570 and Trey Potts finished with 552 yards and a team-high six rushing touchdowns. Minnesota ranks 34th in rushing yards per game this season.
West Virginia, which won its final two games of the season over Kansas and Texas to become bowl-eligible, played pretty solid run defense throughout the season. The Mountaineers allowed 129.3 yards per game on the ground. They also allowed just 24.3 points per game. The Minnesota offense is not flashy but does just enough to win. The Gophers averaged 26.1 points per game in 2021.
The Gophers defense is outstanding. If the final six weeks of the regular season were any indication, this is one of the best units in the country. In the final six games, Minnesota held all but one opponent to 16 or fewer points. For the season, Fleck’s defense gave up an average of 18.3 points per game. That ranked No. 9 in the country. Also of note are the run and pass defenses which were both among the top ten units in the nation.
Making Minnesota’s job a little easier tonight is West Virginia RB Leddie Brown who opted out of the bowl game. Brown was the Mountaineers leading rusher with 1,065 yards and 13 touchdowns. He decided to begin preparations for the 2022 NFL draft and will skip the bowl game. That will make things a little tougher on WVU QB Jarret Doege who threw for 2,908 yards and 19 touchdowns this season. Like Minnesota, the West Virginia offense isn’t flashy averaging 24.8 points per game this season.
Minnesota covered the spread in six of last eight games of the season. The Mountaineers were 2-2 straight up in their final four games of the season. They only covered in one of those games. The Under is the trend for Minnesota. The Under has cashed in each of the last six games Minnesota has played in the month of December. The Under has also hit in 12 of the last 15 games in which West Virginia has played as the underdog.