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Minnesota Football: Models and Bottles! - Texas Bowl Edition

Bowl prediction time is upon us.

Golden Gopher Gridiron

Last time the prediction engine gets revved up for 2013. As I do every year, I'll shut the beast down over the offseason and make any and all necessary improvements to build a more perfect death machine model.

And no, I didn't factor in losing the Rodeo Bowl in the equation. Nor will I ever.


A little primer on how the Cuse and Gophers match up from a statistical perspective (adjusted for strength of opponent, of course).

Hey, Football Outsider stats! As a reminder, here's a glossary.

One caveat here, I don't use Bill Connelly's EqPts metric in my calculations. Instead, I've derived an equivalent value of my own that represents the same thing: an expected or equivalent point value based upon the yard marker the play stopped at. The big difference between Bill and I's derivations? The tail for my EVPoints are much thinner and the slope inside the redzone is higher.

Gophers vs. Orange Advanced Stats
Minnesota Syracuse
Close % 93.6% 75.0%
Total Offense
Close Leverage % 65.5% 65.5%
Close Success % 30.2% 27.1%
Close EVPP 0.327 0.319
Close EVPP+ 0.629 0.590
Close TD Drive % 24.7% 22.6%
Close Plays Per Drive 5.8 5.3
Total Defense
Close Leverage % Allowed 65.2% 65.2%
Close Success % Allowed 28.2% 27.4%
Close EVPP Allowed 0.292 0.348
Close EVPP+ Allowed 0.574 0.622
Close TD Drive % Allowed 21.7% 24.3%
Close Plays Per Drive Allowed 5.6 5.2
Rushing Offense
Close Yards Per Rush 5.09 5.38
Close Success % 28.5% 27.5%
Close EVPP 0.318 0.357
Close EVPP+ 0.603 0.632
Close Line Yards Per Carry 3.05 3.01
Close Highlight Yards Per Carry 1.99 2.32
Rushing Defense
Close Yards Per Rush Allowed 4.97 4.99
Close Success % Allowed 27.6% 27.0%
Close EVPP Allowed 0.261 0.337
Close EVPP+ Allowed 0.537 0.607
Close Line Yards Per Carry Allowed 2.64 2.79
Close Highlight Yards Per Carry Allowed 2.20 2.14
Passing Offense
Close Yards Per Dropback 6.12 5.27
Close Success % 34.7% 27.2%
Close EVPP 0.361 0.272
Close EVPP+ 0.708 0.544
Standard Down/Passing Down Sack % Allowed 11.6% / 8.0% 2.6% / 4.8%
Passing Defense
Close Yards Per Dropback Allowed 6.18 5.87
Close Success % Allowed 28.3% 27.8%
Close EVPP Allowed 0.318 0.358
Close EVPP+ Allowed 0.601 0.636
Standard Down/Passing Down Sack % 3.1% / 5.4% 7.7% / 6.2%

First thing to note: Syracuse has experienced their share of blowouts. And most of them were not positive outcomes for the Orange. That's something to keep in mind if the Gophers are able to execute and put Cuse behind the eight ball early.

Oddly enough, Minnesota and Syracuse have very similar stat profiles. They are both rush first teams that want to stop the run on defense. The Gophers simply execute on that philosophy right now, something no one should find surprising given Syracuse's youth and first year in Scott Shafer's regime compared to Kill's year 3. The most glaring difference between the two squads is in the passing game, where the Gophers shine (relatively speaking) compared to their Orange counterparts. Philip Nelson and his young receiving trio will have the chance to make some plays down field, while the Orange will rely upon Terrel Hunt to not make mistakes. Syracuse's passing game is not particularly explosive.

A danger zone for the Gophers is protecting Nelson and/or Mitch Leidner against an aggressive Syracuse front 4. Minnesota hasn't done a great job protecting their quarterbacks this season, especially in non-obvious passing situations where play action should be available.

Survey says...

Gopher Win Probability 70.2%
Predicted Points Scored 30.3
Predicted Points Allowed 20.5
Predicted Margin of Victory 9.8
Current Vegas Spread Gophers -4
Current Vegas Over/Under 47.5

It's not just my model that likes Minnesota here by a decent margin. F/+ and Brian Fremeau project the Gophers to win by nearly double digits. The lone outlier here is Vegas. Always Vegas man.

Again, the Maroon and Gold are simply a better, more balanced team than Syracuse nearly any way you slice it. They're better on offense, defense, special teams and winning the field position battle. The Orange are not uniquely equipped to stop what Minnesota wants to do on offense (like Iowa, Wisconsin or Michigan State) and they don't have the type of weapons to exploit vulnerabilities in the Gopher secondary. This game could easily dissolve into a grinding slugfest, which would also play more into Minnesota's strengths.


To commemorate the Gophers' second straight trip to Houston, I've decided to feature not one but two different Texas inspired bottles.

For the barley soda fans out there, I'll stick with a classic: Shiner Bock.

For you whiskey hounds, do yourself a favor and find some Balcones Baby Blue Corn Whisky.