The Gophers first trip to a January 1 bowl game since before I've been alive. Kind of a big deal right? I considered writing WOO HOO a bunch of times here but felt that would be a bit over the top. But seriously, WOO FRICKIN' HOO!
And it's not just a New Year's Day bowl game, it's a NYD bowl against an opponent that Gophers should match up well with. This has the potential to be a legitimately excellent game and I couldn't be more excited! Missouri is a good team. Bad teams don't win their division, especially not in the SEC (even if it's in the much maligned SEC East). Yes, I see you Carolina Panthers. No, I don't think you count.
There are certainly questions to be answered, but none of them should be new to Gophers fans. We don't know for sure if good Mitch will show up, we don't know for sure if David Cobb will run over a good to great Missouri front seven, and we don't know for sure if the Gopher D can force Maty Mauk into gifting us some turnovers. But it's not crazy to be optimistic and see any or all of those things happening. Can't complain about that!
The gnomes be chillin' in Florida. They send their regards and hope you aren't blinded by their pasty gnome legs. they also sent this GIF. They said it illustrates what they want Minnesota to do to Missouri tomorrow.
Light Pre-Preview Reading
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Date: 1/1/15 (That was beautiful to type)
Kickoff Time: 12 Noon CST
Where: Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium - Orlando, FL
TV: ABC (National Broadcast)
Streaming Video: WatchESPN
Radio: KFAN (100.3 in the Twin Cities) and the Gopher Radio Network (Radio Affiliates).
Streaming Audio: Locate KFAN on IHeartRadio.com (or the IHeartRadio app for your mobile device)
Satellite Radio: SiriusXM 84; Sirius 84; XM 84
Spread: Missouri by 4.5 to 5, depending on the site
Over/Under: 47 to 47.5, depending on the site
Well, if you're in Orlando it's looking good. REALLY GOOD.
For those of us at home?
We'll just ignore the outside weather that has made all of us homebound folks jealous of our fellow Gophers who are in Florida.
Where Are They From?
All Time Series: Minnesota is 3-4-1 all time against Missouri.
Last Season: 12-2 (7-1 SEC) - Missouri won the SEC East in their first year as a conference member. After losing to Auburn in the SEC Championship game, they went on to win the Cotton Bowl against Okie State and finished #5 in the country. In other words, kind of a good year.
2014 To Date: 10-3 (7-1 SEC) - A good year, other than that loss to SEC East Champion* Indiana. I mean, how does that even happen?
Head Coach: Gary Pinkel is 112-66 (63-50 Big 12/SEC) in his 14 years leading the Missouri Tigers. That's ok I guess.
Players To Watch:
1) Maty Mauk (QB - Sophomore): The Missouri Mitch Leidner if Rock M Nation is to be believed:
Mizzou's offense is at its worst when Mauk is frazzled. If Minnesota can get pressure on him early, it will more than likely lead to a few mistakes. It's on the Gophers to make sure those are big mistakes and not little mistakes, but if they can capitalize then Missouri will be in real hot water.
Ah yes...the dreaded inconsistency. You can see it in some of his numbers. While he's thrown for 2551 yards and 23 TD's, he's also only completed 52.9% of his passes and tossed 11 INTs. On an unrelated note, he looks great in a bow tie.
Gotta respect the bow tie.
The names most people should already be familiar with are Shane Ray and Markus Golden, the two talented defensive ends that will do their very best to wreak as much havoc in Minnesota's backfield as they have in pretty much every backfield they've been presented with this year. Those two have combined for 22.5 sacks and 37 tackles for loss, they're going to get theirs.
Could they not get theirs? I'd prefer it if they didn't get theirs this one game.
3)(Tailback - RS Senior): Punt and kick return superstar and SEC Special Teams Player of the Year? Not enough for you?
He's the only player in the FBS to have scored a touchdown in all four all-purpose categories (rushing, receiving, kickoff return, and punt return), and he is Mizzou's career special teams touchdown leader with seven.
Keys To The Game
- Get the running game established: Missouri is stout against the run. But you know what? So was Michigan and so was Wisconsin. And the Gophers were able to run against both of those teams. So to me this isn't a question or negotiable. Establish the run game early and give Mitch a chance to make plays against a stacked box.
- Connect through the air as needed: I don't care if it's not the prettiest stat line at the end of the day, but the Gophers have shown time and again that they struggle (and usually fail) to win when the passing game dips from "OK" to "UGH" levels.
- Eliminate the silly mistakes: No big pass plays because the CB and Safety aren't in synch on the coverage responsibilities. No drive killing false starts. But seriously defense, no big first half gains for Mizzou because you got sloppy that one play ok?
How Afraid Am I?
On a scale of 1 to 5 "Brewsters on his face" (1 being not a afraid, 5 being very afraid)?
I'm bourbon served over 3 cubes of Brewster afraid of Missouri.
Yes I know, it's not the traditional "Brew Flat On His Face" Fear Scale. But this isn't a traditional Minnesota Golden Gophers game either. The bourbon is to celebrate the NYD Bowl game. And the 3 moustachioed Brew cubes represents my respect for a talented but beatable Missouri team.
Completely Worthless Prediction
There is only one way I can play this.
That's right, FULL HOMER TIME. I'm throwing the logic that suggests a close game to the wind because dammit I feel like it!
Minnesota 31 - Missouri 17.