While the official announcement won't come for a week, if you're a Gopher football fan looking to book your travel plans for the team's bowl destination, no real need to wait until next Sunday. Just about every bowl projection available on the world wide web (which includes, but is by no means limited to, SI, BTN, CBS, E!SPN, Phil Steele, and our very own SB Nation) has Minnesota going to the Meinke Car Care Bowl of Texas in Houston on Friday, December 28. The Gophers would be the sixth pick of Big Ten teams while their opponent would be the #6 team out of the Big 12, but with eight of that conferences' 10 teams playing their final game this weekend, and nine of them being bowl eligible, it's clear as mud who the Gophs will play.
As quick refresher, the...let's call it the MCCBOT? Sure why the hell not, MCCBOT...doesn't get the sixth best Big Ten and Big 12 teams, it gets the sixth CHOICE of B1G and BXII teams. A bit of a difference, as the Gophers are one of seven bowl-eligible B1G schools, and one of three- along with Michigan State and Purdue- who finished with the minimum of six wins. Michigan State is a lock to be the fifth pick and go to Tempe for the BW3 Bowl for a number of reasons: they're perceived to have a stronger travelling horde than either UM or Purdue and more "prestige", they just beat the Gophers and oh yeah, they didn't just can their coach.
So the choice for the MCCBOT then comes down to Minnesota or Purdue. The Gophers play on the field is working against them having lost three of their past four (and not to rub it in, but six of their last eight) in pretty ugly fashion while the Boilers won their final
two three games against "The Three I's" Iowa, Illinois and Indiana (must be rough playing in that other division). However, playing in Minnesota's favor is that they not only beat Purdue head-to-head, but they have that "not firing their coach" thing going, and bowls usually hate that stench of lame-duck/interim coach Purdue will drag with it. Yeah, their fans may be excited to find a better coach than Danny Hope (they will never, EVER, find a better mustache though. Ever), but that new guy won't be on the sidelines for the bowl game, and fans are less likely to go see the lame-duck coach and this year's disappointing team.
Who the Gophers will/would play in Houston is pretty wide open because, as we said off the top, there's nine bowl eligible teams in the Big 12, and seven of them still have a game left this Saturday. Both Iowa State (6-6, 3-6 conference) and Texas Tech (7-5, 4-5) are in the clubhouse and will wait to see what happens between K-State/Texas, Oklahoma/TCU, Okie State/Baylor and West Virginia hanging half a hundo on Kansas (maybe in just the 1st half). Of that group, K-State, OU, Texas, and Okie State won't be in range for the MCCBOT, but it leaves quite a pool of candidates available. With the way Minnesota finished the season they wouldn't be favored against any of them, but at the same time, I don't hate their chances against any of them either. With a month to practice and prepare for it, you could talk me into the Gophers pulling the upset against Baylor, ISU, or West Virginia while it'd be a taller order to knock off Texas Tech or TCU.
So if you're planning to follow Minnesota to their first bowl in a few years, looks like you'll be going to Houston. Could be better, could be worse, but at least it'll be warmer than Minnesota in late December. And who knows, with 15 practices to go before playing the game, the Gophers might even have a chance of grabbing a victory.