Both Minnesota and Syracuse got off to hot starts this season, and they will look to finish the year strong in the Pinstripe Bowl. Minnesota started the season with four wins before a three-game losing streak in October set it back, but the Gophers recovered to win four of their last five games (the lone loss was 13-10 vs. Iowa) to finish the season 8-4.
Syracuse was even better to begin the season, starting 6-0 and climbing as high as No. 14 in the AP Top 25. Unfortunately, it lost five of six down the stretch, but finished the regular season with a 32-23 win over Boston College to get to 7-5.
Now both teams meet at Yankee Stadium in the 12th edition of the Pinstripe Bowl. This will be Syracuse's third appearance in the game, and it's the first time Minnesota has made the trip to The Big Apple to participate.
How to watch Pinstripe Bowl live
Date: Thursday, Dec. 29 | Time: 2 p.m. ET
Location: Yankee Stadium -- Bronx, New York
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Minnesota vs. Syracuse: Need to know
Mohamed Ibrahim is on the verge of history: Minnesota' star running back suffered a torn Achilles in the 2021 season opener, but returned to the Gophers this season as a sixth-year senior intent on proving the injury wouldn't be the end of his career. He succeeded. Ibrahim was once again the focal point of the Gophers offense and enters the final game of his career with 1,594 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns in 11 games. His 144.1 rushing yards per game ranks second nationally. He's also within range of becoming Minnesota's all-time leading rusher. Darrell Thompson rushed for 4,654 yards from 1986 to 1989, and Ibrahim comes to New York with 4,597 yards to his name, meaning he's only 58 yards away from breaking Thompson's record. He's already flown by Thompson's touchdown record of 40; the next rushing TD of Ibrahim's career will be his 53rd.
Syracuse will be without leading rusher Sean Tucker: Unlike Minnesota, the Orange will be without their workhorse on offense. Sean Tucker posted his second consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season, finishing with 1,060 yards on the ground and 11 rushing touchdowns to go with his 254 yards receiving. The last few seasons have seen Tucker be the rock Syracuse could rely on when other parts of the offense wasn't working, but they will not have that rock in New York. Tucker has opted out to prepare for the NFL Draft as have a couple of other members of the Syracuse defense.
Both teams have performed well in bowls: You can never be sure what to expect from teams in bowl games, but if history is an indication, both these teams will take this game seriously. Minnesota has won five straight bowl games, including all three of its postseason appearances under P.J. Fleck. Last season the Gophers beat West Virginia in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl and they upset Auburn in the 2019 Outback Bowl. Meanwhile, Syracuse hasn't been to bowls as often as Minnesota in recent seasons, but it has a four-bowl win streak of its own, including two wins (2010 and 2012) in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Pinstripe Bowl prediction, picks
The Golden Gophers are 10-point favorites in this game due to the opt-outs on Syracuse, but even if I expect the Gophers to win this game, that spread seems a little too generous. Still, I'm not ready to trust Syracuse in this spot. The better play is on the total. It's not hard to imagine the Syracuse offense struggling to move the ball without Sean Tucker against a Minnesota defense that's been one of the most dependable units in the country, not just the Big Ten. I can see a scenario in which Minnesota builds a big lead, Mohamed Ibrahim sets the all-time rushing record, and P.J. Fleck decides its time to get the backups some game experience before 2023. Prediction: Under 42
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