Central Michigan v. Minnesota
Ford Field — Detroit, MI
December 28, 2015 — 5:00 pm Eastern (ESPN2)
Why You Should Watch
Continuing a tradition of bowl games being held at Ford Field in Detroit, the Quick Lane Bowl took over the bowl certification in the Motor City from the Little Caesars Bowl last year. After last year saw the matchup turn into a Big Ten-ACC encounter, the bowl game has drifted back toward a more traditional Big Ten-MAC duel for Midwestern bragging rights. The matchup itself doesn’t exactly provide a lot of intriguing angles to follow, given that it will be a seven-win MAC team against a Big Ten school that had a losing season and only got into the postseason thanks to a glut of unclaimed invites and their APR scores. But hey… you’ve only got two more weeks of college football left this season, so you might as well get your fix while you can.
What Each Team Brings to the Table
Central Michigan Chippewas
Central Michigan put up another mediocre season that allowed them to creep into the postseason, but the statistical numbers indicate a team that frankly underachieved in 2015. Cooper Rush quietly led one of the 15 best passing attacks in the country this season, throwing for 3700 yards and 25 touchdowns. The Chippewas also bring one of the better mid-major defenses to Detroit, having held opponents to less than 330 yards and 22 points per game. CMU is great at controlling the clock, finishing fifth nationally in time of possession, and they are effective both offensively and defensively in the red zone. Where the Chippewas fall short is in special teams, where they rank outside the top 100 in both kick and punt returns. If John Bonamego’s crew can avoid losing the field position battle, they could claim their first bowl victory since 2012.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
The Golden Gophers lost their head coach after Jerry Kill retired due to health issues related to his chronic seizures, and interim replacement Tracy Claeys stumbled down the stretch with just one win in Minnesota’s final five regular-season games. Yet, despite their 5-7 record, the Gophers are in a bowl game thanks to a bloated schedule that required the NCAA to step in and determine which three 5-7 teams would be selected to fill the remaining slots after only 77 teams reached .500 or better. Claeys’ team has a solid pass defense… and not much else to gloat about. Minnesota ranks outside the top 100 in total offense and scoring offense, are tied for 94th in turnover margin, and are just as bad as Central Michigan in the return game. While the Golden Gophers will certainly be glad for any opportunity to go bowling, they’ve done little to deserve the distinction in 2015.
What is Likely to Happen
For some reason, the Vegas sharps like Minnesota to the tune of naming them a six-point favorite across the board. The most telling statistic, though, is the fact that Minnesota played three mid-majors during its out-of-conference schedule — and only managed to beat all three by a field goal apiece. Given the Golden Gophers’ inability to score with regularity, coupled with their Swiss cheese defense, there is no logical reason to give into Vegas’ predictions. It is more likely that Central Michigan will not just beat the spread but beat Minnesota outright. The Chippewas will attack the Gophers at their strongest point, and will look better on the ground than they have all season against a front seven that has been unable to stop most opponents. Cooper Rush might taste turf a few times, but he’ll also hit some big plays.This game might go to overtime, with the MAC representative prevailing in the end.
Central Michigan 31, Minnesota 28 (OT)
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