Kansas Jayhawks vs. Minnesota Gophers in the Insight Bowl - TDG Preview

The weeks of anticipation are just about all behind us as the Gophers are set to take on Kansas in the Glen Mason Resume Builder Bowl Insight Bowl.  The Gophers are getting no respect out there with prognosticators regularly picking Minnesota to lose by double-digits. CBS Sports has five "experts" all picking Kansas.  ESPN's computerized pick center has Kansas winning 73% of the time.  Vegas has us nine point underdogs.  ESPN's Bruce Feldman picks the Gophers to lose by 14.  One of the four CollegeFootballNews.com guys picked Minnesota, but obviously the other three picked Kansas. 

Here are the KU advantages as Scouts Inc. sees them.


QB RB WR OL DL LB DB ST Coach Overall
MINN
 
KAN
 
Scoring
23.4
Pts./ Game
32.7
23.3
Pts. Allowed/ Game
29.5
30:01
Time of Possession
30:27
Rushing
105.8
Yds/Game
128.9
146.8
Yds Allowed/ Game
126.7
18
TDs
22
Passing
216.4
Yds/ Game
302.3
231.6
Yds Allowed/ Game
275.5
238-380
Completions/Attempts
305-464
62.6
Completion %
65.7
14/8
TDs/ INTs
28/12
Turnovers
30
Takeaways
24
18
Giveaways
21

So on paper, the consensus is obvious.  Minnesota has very little chance of winning this game.

I have to say that I was on that double-digit loss boat, but the more I look into it the more confidence I have that the Gophers will be in this game and capable of winning it.  There are match up articles all over the web and you can find those relatively easily.  But for our purposes let us take a look and see what will have to happen for the Gophers to come out with the Insight Bowl trophy (man is that thing ugly).

Defending the Jayhawks

This will be the biggest test of the day for Minnesota.  I'll get to what our offense can do to their defense in a minute but Kansas has an explosive offense led by an experienced quarterback with a solid receiving corp.  In his two years as a starter, Todd Reesing has averaged just over 3,500 yards, 30 TDs and only 9 INTs.  The junior has to feel good about facing a Gopher defense that is improved but still finished 10th in the Big Ten at stopping the pass. 

Reesing and a corp of talented (although not great) recievers will present a tough match up for Minnesota to slow down.  Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier combined this year for 165 receptions, 2,138 yards and 19 touchdowns.  Both are good sized and will be a great test for Sherels and Simmons.  I feel as though our corners have stepped up to the challenge each and every game so it will be fun to watch them.

This offense is very similar to Minnesota's in that they are proficient passing the ball but have struggled, especially late in the season, to run the ball with any consistency.  I don't think it will take much to make Kansas one dimensional, but once we do that (assuming we do that) what we do to take advantage of it will be a key to winning.  Another huge match up here is Willie Van De Steeg against either of Kansas' freshmen tackles.  If WVDS can forgo run coverage and get to Reesing a few times maybe our defense will get back to our turnover forcing ways.

I read an interview with Brewster where he said we really aren't going to stop the Jayhawk offense, what we have to do is limit the amount of explosive plays.  Make them grind out drives with short passes and trying to run the ball.  When they do try to throw intermediate or deep routes the defensive line absolutely has to get pressure on Reesing (who is very mobile).  We will not win this game with our defense, but they are the key to keeping us in the game.

Moving the ball on the Jayhawks

If our defense can keep us in the game, the offense will be required to win it for us.  The Gopher offense really sputtered down the stretch (I just figured that out).  But hopefully with the infusion of a running game coordinator, an extra month of practice for the freshmen wide receivers and most importantly a healthy Eric Decker this offense can resemble what we saw for the first seven weeks of the season.

What is being lost in all of the love for the Jayhawks is that they don't exactly have a shutdown defense.  They did allow nearly 30 ppg and that includes 33 to Iowa St and 45 to Nebraska.  The Gopher offense is completely capable of moving the ball on Wednesday, if (big if) they can get back to the rythm they had earlier in the season.

A healthy Eric Decker is going to be the major key when we have the ball.  I know Brewster wants to establish a physical running attack, but Decker getting open and making big plays is an absolute must.  We will be a pass first team that then can open up the run until proven otherwise.  With the suspension of junior corner Justin Thornton, Daymond Patterson will likely be the guy called on to shut down Decker.  Patterson is a 5-8, true freshman who has had a very good year on defense and on special teams.  But I will take Decker in this match up every day of the week (including Wednesdays).  Behind Decker I'd love to see a big game from Brandon Green or Ben Kuznia, but I don't think that is anything we can count on.

Establishing a ground game has been talked about a lot since the hiring of OL Coach and running game coordinator, Tim Davis.  There is hope that renewed emphasis and extra time for the offensive line to gel/get healthy will spark a Gopher ground game that was non-existant down the stretch.  It will be interesting to watch, but once again I don't think it is anything we can count on.  I think I can gaurantee that we will amas more yards on the ground than we did against Iowa (7) and I'll wager we top 100 yards simply because it will be emphasized.  If we can get a few big plays on the ground that will make a huge difference, if we have to grind out 100 yards on 30 carries then I think I'd rather see Weber pass 50 times. 

Special Teams

I don't usually cover special forces, but this is unversally considered a strength for the Gophers on Wednesday.  Continued kick coverage and kick returns by Stoudermire giving us great field position will be huge, but has yet to prove to be a determining factor.  I've been eagerly anticipating a Stoudermire return for a TD.  I don't know if it will happen but getting a special team's TD would give us an scoreboard edge.

Insight_bowl_trophy_medium

Prediction

Overall it is really hard to pick the Gophers.  I think we are capable of winning, more so than others are giving us credit for, but things will have to go right in a few different areas.  The formula of forcing turnovers and turning those into points was used early and often for Minnesota.  We will have to find that formula again if we want to hoist the lovely Insight Bowl trophy. 

I am going to give our coaching staff the benefit of the doubt.  I believe Dunbar and Davis will put together an offensive gameplan that will get the offense back into the endzone.  I also believe our defensive line can get pressure on Reesing, hopefully enough to force a couple turnovers.  This one sees the Gophers jump out to an early lead then hold on late to get the win.

Minnesota - 31
Kansas - 28

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