When the Minnesota players were threatening to boycott this bowl game because they felt like the suspension of 10 of their teammates was done unjustly a lot of questions were raised about this bowl game even being played. After all of that the players decided to end their boycott and the game is happening after all, which is good news for everybody involved.
The Golden Gophers are a very tough, physical team that is going to try and establish the running game against the Cougars. They are led by their running back Rodney Smith who has just over 1,000 yards on the year, but they have a very good running back to spell him in Shannon Brooks. Their quarterback Mitch Leidner is not much of a threat in the passing game, but if the Washington State defense falls asleep on him in the running game he is capable of pulling the ball and getting the Gophers down the field. Drew Wolitarsky is by far the Gophers best receiving threat. He has 787 yards on the year and he is a pretty big frame to throw to with a nice catch radius. The Gophers play pretty good defense, but the Cougars should be able to use the athletes they have on the outside to their advantage.
Washington State is probably pretty frustrated with the way the season ended in the Apple Cup, so look for them to come out and try and use some of that as motivation to win this bowl game and have some momentum going into the offseason with quarterback Luke Falk already announcing that he will be returning for his senior season. Another 9-win season for Washington State would go a long way in recruiting and confidence for the program going into next season. I can see the Cougars really spreading the ball out to all of their weapons early in the game and then once the Gophers get spread out using those running lanes to try and gash the Gophers.
I would feel pretty confident with this matchup if I was a Washington State fan, but with the whole boycotting situation you never know what that could mean. Minnesota could come together and play their best game of the season and Washington State could come not to play because they thought they were going to be in a better bowl game, or Washington State could come with something to prove and Minnesota could kind of go in the tank. My gut tells me that if Washington State comes to play they will win this game because they have better athletes and the Gophers haven’t faced a passing attack like they are going to see in this game. They haven’t had to deal with these kind of athletes except for a few games and they haven’t seen a quarterback that can get them the ball.
The game will kickoff at 4:00 PM PT on Tuesday and will be televised on ESPN live from San Diego. The Cougars are favored by 10-points and the over/under is set at 62.