#16 Missouri v. #25 Minnesota
Florida Citrus Bowl — Orlando, FL
January 1, 2015 — 1:00 pm Eastern (ABC)
Why You Should Watch
This is the second of three New Year’s showdowns between the Big Ten and the SEC, so you can watch this game simultaneously with the Outback Bowl to warm up for the evening Sugar Bowl showdown between Alabama and Ohio State. It’s the second of two bowl games hosted in Orlando, with the grounds crew getting less than three days to turn around the stadium after the Russell Athletic Bowl. Both of the teams in this game were close to conference championships, overachieving in season where neither was expected to accomplish much. Now one final shot of pride is at stake on the last undercard before the two national semifinals.
What Each Team Brings to the Table
Missouri won the SEC East for the second straight year, rebounding from the loss of players like James Franklin and Michael Sam to return to Atlanta for the league championship. They finished with 10 wins before the bowl game despite being shut out by Georgia, getting blown out by Alabama, and — most inexplicably — falling at home to 4-8 Indiana. Maty Mauk was good but not great in his first year as the Tigers’ starting quarterback, completing 53 percent of his passes for 2500 yards with 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy fueled the running attack, with the former just shy of a 1000-yard season and the latter contributing 767 more on the ground. The defense once again fit right in with the rest of its new conference, ranking 21st in yards allowed and 25th in points allowed while holding teams to 345 yards and 21 points per game.
Minnesota entered its season finale 8-3, its rivalry game against Wisconsin turned into a Big Ten West championship game. The Gophers were up 17-3 in the second quarter before giving up 24 consecutive points on either side of halftime. But finishing second in the division should hardly be a disappointment when compared to preseason expectations. The defense was a big part of the turnaround for Jerry Kill’s team, holding teams to 23 points and 363 yards per game to rank in the top 35 nationally. The offense lived and died by the run, with senior tailback David Cobb putting up over 1500 yards on the ground and nearly 1700 yards of total offense while scoring 13 touchdowns along the way. Quarterback Mitch Leidner was the team’s second-leading rusher, putting up 462 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. He was less effective passing the ball, completing less than half of his attempts for 1540 yards. He threw just 10 touchdowns against eight interceptions, and the Gophers were one of the five worst passing offenses in the country.
What is Likely to Happen
Both teams will be hoping this game doesn’t boil down to a kicking contest; both Missouri’s Andrew Baggett and Minnesota’s Ryan Santoso have connected on less than 70 percent of their attempts this season. Minnesota and Missouri each did a great job of protecting the ball this season, with the Gophers in the top 10 in turnover margin and the Tigers rounding out the top 25. That slight discrepancy could make the difference in this game, with a late turnover changing the field position and allowing Minnesota to get in position to take the lead. A low-scoring contest will end on a clutch kick by a rookie as the Gophers end a six-game bowl losing streak dating back to the 2004 season.
Minnesota 17, Missouri 14