What: Texas Bowl
When: Friday, Dec. 27, 6 pm ET (ESPN)
Where: Reliant Stadium (70,000), Houston, Tex.
Opening Line: Minnesota -4 1/2
What matters: This is the third time in four years that Syracuse is going bowling, but it's the first time since 2004 that the Orange are playing in a bowl not called the Pinstripe Bowl. Meanwhile Minnesota is bowling for the second straight year, losing to Texas Tech 34-31 in Houston last year. The Gophers will be looking to win their first bowl game since the 2004 Music City Bowl when they beat Alabama of all teams.
Who matters: The best player in this game is likely Minnesota defensive lineman Ra'Shede Hageman. Hageman made Bruce Feldman's list of the top 20 athletic freaks of nature in college football, and he was listed second behind only Jadeveon Clowney. The 6-6, 320 pound converted tight end has a 36-inch vertical and might be the best dunker on Minnesota's campus. Instead he spent his season disrupting offensive backfields, with 11 tackles for loss, two sacks, eight passes broken up, two blocked kicks and an interception to boot.
Matchup question: Whichever team has the most success running the ball and stopping the run is going to win this game. Neither Syracuse or Minnesota are teams that are going to beat you through the air. Both have solid rushing attacks and above average run defenses.
Prediction: The story of this season for Minnesota was that it would lose to the elite teams of the Big Ten, but it fattened up on teams just like this Syracuse squad. A good team, but an inconsistent squad. That should continue in Houston. Minnesota 27, Syracuse 20