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Minnesota Football: The Gophers are headed back to the Quick Lane Bowl

The Gophers will make a return trip to the Motor City

NCAA Football: Purdue at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Golden Gophers will be spending Christmas in Detroit after accepting an invitation to the Quick Lane Bowl at Ford Field in Detroit, MI, on Wednesday, Dec. 26 at 4:15 p.m. CT. The Gophers will face the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets for the first time in program history, in what will be head coach Paul Johnson’s final game after announcing his retirement.

The game will be televised on ESPN.

The Gophers last earned a bid to the Quick Lane Bowl in 2015, when they’re APR scores kept their season alive despite a 5-7 regular season finish. Minnesota prevailed over Central Michigan, 21-14, snapping the program’s seven-game losing streak in bowl games.

That seven-game losing streak has been reversed into a two-game winning streak, as the Gophers’ followed that up with Holiday Bowl victory over Washington State in 2016. This will be the program’s first bowl game under head coach P.J. Fleck and co.

Get to know Georgia Tech

Record: 7-5 (5-3, 2nd ACC Coastal)

S&P+ Offense: 31st
S&P+ Defense: 105th
S&P+ Overall: 74th

If you know one thing about Georgia Tech’s program under Paul Johnson, it’s that the Yellow Jackets run the triple-option offense. And they’ve been especially effective at executing it this season, leading the country in rushing offense with an average of 334.9 rushing yards per game. That success on the ground has translated into a Top 25 scoring offense, as the Yellow Jackets average 35.6 points per game. What is especially impressive is when Georgia Tech is able to forego a passing game altogether, as they did against Virginia Tech earlier this season, for example. The Yellow Jackets were 0-for-1 through the air, but amassed 465 rushing yards on 75 attempts en route to a 49-28 road victory over the Hokies.

Defending the triple option requires discipline from the defensive line at the line of scrimmage and linebackers who know their gap responsibilities. It will certainly present a challenge for a Gopher defense that struggled mightily to stop the run for most of the season before the firing of Robb Smith, but hopefully newly-minted defensive coordinator Joe Rossi is up to the task.

As good as they’ve been at running the ball, the Yellow Jackets have been decent at stopping it. The Georgia Tech defense is allowing 149.8 rushing yards per game, which ranks 47th in the country. Operating out of a base 3-4 defense, the Yellow Jackets have leaned on a defensive front that consists of five seniors. They are also one of the best teams in the country at forcing turnovers, recovering 13 fumbles and nabbing 12 interceptions. But the Georgia Tech defense has been abysmal on third downs, ranking 125th in the country in third down conversion percentage.

After starting the season 1-3, the Yellow Jackets won six of their last eight games.