Dec. 28, 9 p.m. ET, Houston (ESPN)
Minnesota take by Big 12 blogger Brian Bennett: Few teams would be as thrilled to accept a Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas invite as Minnesota is. The Gophers are going bowling for the first time since the 2009 season and have made steady progress in Year 2 under head coach Jerry Kill, doubling their win total from three to six.
Kill made the bold decision midway through the year to take the redshirt off true freshman quarterback Philip Nelson and thrust him into the starting role, switching banged up senior MarQueis Gray to receiver. It paid off as the precocious Nelson guided the team to two Big Ten victories, which was just enough for bowl eligibility after a 4-0 nonconference mark.
Minnesota badly needs the month off between games to get healthy, as injuries really started to take a toll on an already young and thin team down the stretch. The Gophers got blown out in their last two games and mustered only 96 yards in their finale at home against Michigan State.
Texas Tech can relate after having lost four of its final five. Minnesota will have to hope its No. 11 pass defense can slow down the Red Raiders' No. 2 passing attack, but Kill's limited offense faces a tremendous challenge in trying to score enough points to win. Regardless, just getting to this bowl game will stand as a major stepping stone for the Gophers.
Texas Tech take from Big 12 blogger David Ubben: Just like last year, Texas Tech stumbled to the finish after a big win over a top five team, but this time, the late struggles weren’t enough to prevent Texas Tech from making a bowl game.
The 7-5 Red Raiders lost four of their final five games, with the only win coming against 1-11 Kansas at home in overtime, and two losses coming by more than 30 points. Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville began the season on the hot seat after going just 5-7 a year ago, but coached his team to a 6-1 start and a big win over then-No. 5 West Virginia. Despite the late-season struggles, Texas Tech does boast quarterback Seth Doege, who is second nationally with 38 touchdown passes and sixth nationally with 3,934 passing yards. The only problem? That’s fourth in the pass-happy Big 12.
The Red Raiders will be a tough matchup for Minnesota, who went just 2-6 in a weak Big Ten and lost three of their final four games, never topping more than 17 points in that rough stretch. They’ll need to hang a lot more points to keep up with Texas Tech, who scored more than 20 points in every game this season and was held below 41 points on just four occasions. The Red Raiders will also commemorate a memorable Insight Bowl matchup against Minnesota in which Tech rallied from a 31-point, third-quarter deficit to beat the Golden Gophers in overtime and clinch the biggest comeback in FBS history.