There are a number of reasons why the Red Raiders are not a good match-up for our favorite squad. But ultimately I don't think it really matters. The Meineke Car Care Bowl is not the destination, it is a stop along the way. Beating Texas Tech would be a nice little boost but a loss doesn't make the journey any more difficult. There are many opinions regarding where this program is at in the rebuilding process and whether or not we are moving in the right direction. But the current roster is lacking, this bowl game is good for the program regardless of the outcome.
It was noted quite often from Kill (to the point it annoyed the media) but this is a young team. Not only are they lacking senior starters on offense but there are few juniors who are major contributors on both sides of the ball. Offensively there are really three starters who are in their third or fourth seasons (Rabe, Gray and Ed Olson). Defensively there are six senior starters and one junior. That leaves about 12 starters who are freshmen or sophomores with most of the 2nd string guys also falling into the bucket of less experienced players.
The youth on this team is absolutely a valid excuse and a reason not to fret over this particular bowl game. The lack of experience on the offense was quite evident throughout the Big Ten season and the offense really struggled, particularly against quality defenses. Two more years of strength training and time to perfect technique are critical for offensive linemen. Getting more snaps for the skill position players to better understand their assignments and experience reading defenses are so valuable. The extra practices are nice, but don't expect to see them pay off in tonight.
Defensively we are not quite as youthful which would explain why the Gopher defense was much improved in year two of the Kill era. The bonus practice time will benefit the second string guys in the long run, but again don't expect dramatic changes in performance in tonight's bowl game.
This little post feels to me like I'm preaching a Monday Perspective on the Friday afternoon before the bowl game, but I can't stress enough how irrelevant the outcome for tonight's game is. The players and coaches want to win and a win would be a nice boost to the program. But I don't think it dramatically alters the direction of the program nor will it speed up the rebuilding process in any meaningful way.
Texas Tech is in a better place than we are right now. They have deeper and more experienced talent throughout and there is a reason that they are nearly two touchdown favorites. Enjoy this game because really it is almost a no-lose situation for the Gophers. A loss is expected and there is no shame in losing to a good team. A win is a nice feather in your cap as you head into year three of getting the program on a more solid foundation.
Can we win tonight? Sure we can. Texas Tech has a dynamic passing attack so getting pressure on Seth Doege is going to be a big deal, a good game by Troy Stoudermire and Micheal Carter is vital and then we might need a turnover or two (something TTU is want to do). Then a dynamic play from MarQueis and establishing a rushing attack might make this an interesting game. Those are not unreasonable expectations. But notice that we are going to need major contributions from our thin group of upper classmen. Ra'Shede Hageman, D.L. Wilhite, Stoudermire, Cater, Gray and probably Keanon Cooper too. All of that is possible, but Texas Tech is a high scoring offense and it will be difficult to see our offense keeping up.
But I don't sweat the outcome. Everything this year was about improvement. We saw that and this team earned the right to play in this bowl. Enjoy the game, enjoy watching many of out seniors playing their final game in maroon and gold and I'm already getting excited about Gopher Football 2013.