Kickoff: Friday, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN) at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas
Spread: Texas Tech by 13.
Watchability: This bowl features teams that couldn't be much different in playing style. The Red Raiders have their air raid offense, one of the most wide-open attacks in the country. The Golden Gophers favor more of a ball-control offense and like to set up the pass with the running game. Minnesota needs to keep Texas Tech's dynamic passing attack on the sideline or it could be a long game.
Shining stars: Minnesota -- Freshman QB Philip Nelson started the season No. 3 on the depth chart but won the job by midseason and is completing 50 percent of his passes for 735 yards with six touchdowns against seven interceptions. Nelson also has rushed for 158 yards and is becoming more comfortable in the attack each week. Texas Tech -- QB Seth Doege is one of the most prolific passers in the country as he is completing 70.4 percent of his passes for 3,934 yards with 38 touchdowns against 14 interceptions. The senior also has shown an ability to use his legs as he has rushed for a touchdown this year to go with a long run of 23 yards.
Who could steal the show: Minnesota -- DB Michael Carter. The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder has a team-high 16 passes defended, including two interceptions. The senior also has shown his versatility by making 42 tackles and will have a big challenge trying to help contain the Red Raiders' passing game. Texas Tech -- DB Cody Davis. The 5-foot-11, 179-pounder has a team-high 91 tackles, including 3.5 for loss, to go with three interceptions and 10 passes defended. The senior has 82 solo stops and is often counted on to be the last line of defense in the secondary. He should get a chance to play closer to the line of scrimmage against Minnesota.
Magic number for Minnesota: 1. Times the Golden Gophers scored more than 17 points in a Big Ten game this season: A 44-28 win over Purdue on Oct. 27. That won't cut it against Texas Tech.
Magic number for Texas Tech: 10. Total turnovers forced by the Red Raiders this season, the third-worst mark in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Texas Tech failed to force a turnover in its final five games.
3 keys to a Minnesota win
- Establish the run: Minnesota RB Donnell Kirkwood has rushed for a team-high 849 yards, including three 100-yard performances this season. The Golden Gophers are 3-0 in those games and 6-1 when he rushes for at least 70 yards. Kirkwood also is the first Gopher rusher to gain at least 800 yards in a season since Amir Pinnix in 2006. Feeding Kirkwood is a winning strategy for Minnesota.
- Stop the pass: Minnesota has one of the top pass defenses in the country and will be tested by the Red Raiders' elite attack. The Golden Gophers have allowed only one 300-yard passer this season, and the team is 11th in the nation in pass defense (178.5 yards per game). Overall, the Gophers are 20th nationally in pass efficiency defense at 111.95 and 29th in total defense (352.8 yards per game).
- Stretch the field: WR A.J. Barker had a team-high 577 receiving yards and seven touchdowns but abruptly quit last month. His departure leaves a big void in the passing game. Former QB MarQueis Gray moved to wide earlier this season and has 12 catches for 121 yards. The dynamic athlete also has rushed for 331 yards and five touchdowns this season. Any trick play or attempt to go deep likely includes Gray.
3 keys to a Texas Tech win
- Stay focused: The Red Raiders became a bit of a national joke this month when coach Tommy Tuberville quit and took the same job at Cincinnati. The team was left stunned and named Chris Thomsen the interim coach. Since then, former Red Raiders QB Kliff Kingsbury was named the future head coach and the players must find a way to remain focused as the team is transitioning to a new regime.
- Get defensive: The rebuilt Texas Tech defense has made huge strides this season. The Red Raiders are 39th (367.3) overall in total defense and second in the Big 12 after ending 2001 ranked 114th in total defense (485.6 yards). But the unit has struggled to force turnovers and has allowed at least 52 points in four of its past six games. Minnesota's run-oriented attack will provide a unique challenge for a defense designed to contain high-octane passing games.
- Attack, attack, attack: The Golden Gophers have yet to face a passing game like what the Red Raiders have. Texas Tech is second in the nation in passing yards (361.9 per game), 12th in total yards (501.4) and 16th in points (37.8). Red Raiders WR Eric Ward has 75 catches for 974 yards with 11 touchdowns, and WR Darrin Moore has 81 catches for 948 yards and 13 scores. Minnesota's depth will be tested.
Prediction: Texas Tech 31, Minnesota 17
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