West Virginia vs. Minnesota Guaranteed Rate Bowl Picks and Predictions

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Quarterback Jarret Doege #2 of the West Virginia Mountaineers. Peter Aiken/Getty Images/AFP

Editor’s note: WVU star running back Leddie Brown has chosen to skip the bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft, making Minnesota even better value at -3.5.

It’s the Big 12 against the Big Ten in the Dec. 28 Guaranteed Rate Bowl as West Virginia takes on Minnesota from the desert. Keep reading to check the NCAAF odds and cash out at BMR’s top-rated sportsbooks

West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers 

Tuesday, December 28, 2021 – 10:15 PM EST at Chase Field

There are five bowl games on Tuesday, Dec. 28, and the last of those is from Phoenix’s Chase Field, home of MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks, as West Virginia of the Big 12 faces Minnesota of the Big Ten. ESPN has the telecast. 

This bowl has been around since 1989 and has had several name changes – last year’s game was canceled due to the pandemic. Minnesota plays in it a fourth time and is 0-3 at BMR’s top-rated books with losses to Texas Tech (2006), Kansas (2008), and Iowa State (2009). West Virginia is 1-1 in this game, losing in 1998 to Missouri and winning on Jan. 2, 2016, over Arizona State. 

It’s the first-ever game between Minnesota and West Virginia, which is moderately surprising. The Mountaineers, with 761 victories, and the Golden Gophers, with 717 wins, have been playing college football since the early 1890s. 

WVU Hasn’t Been Good in Bowls 

West Virginia (6-6) was consistently inconsistent this year as it had three two-game winning streaks but never won a third in a row – it has a chance to here. WVU did play a Big Ten school in the season opener, losing 30-24 at Maryland. The Terps also lost at Minnesota 34-16

WVU, coached by Neal Brown, got bowl eligible with a 34-28 win at Kansas on November, 27th in the regular-season finale. The Mountaineers’ best player is running back Leddie Brown, who has carried the ball 223 times for 1,065 yards and 13 scores while adding 36 catches for 217 yards and a TD. West Virginia 13-0 when having a 100-yard rusher under Brown in his three seasons. 

Quarterback Jarret Doege is not a dual-threat but has completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 2,908 yards, 19 TDs, and 11 picks. That dude has been playing college football since 2017, starting at Bowling Green.

Doege recently surpassed 10,000 yards passing for his career, when counting his two years at BGSU, and he’s fifth in WVU history with 6,313 passing yards and 10th with 40 TD passes. WVU is 14-11 when he starts. Doege faces a Minnesota defense that allows just 184.7 passing yards per game, 10th best nationally. 

One interesting tidbit in this game surrounds former West Virginia offensive analyst Kirk Ciarrocca. He has since left to rejoin Minnesota as its offensive coordinator; Ciarrocca previously served as OC in Minnesota from 2017-19. Obviously, Ciarrocca could provide some solid intel on the WVU offense to the Gophers.  

It’s the 39th bowl in WVU history and it is 16-22 overall. Last year, the Mountaineers beat Army 24-21 in the Liberty Bowl. Doege threw for a score and Brown rushed for 65 yards. WVU is just 3-16 ATS on the NCAAF picks in its past 19 bowl games. 

Gophers Win with Run Defense 

Under Coach P.J. Fleck, the Gophers had a nice bounce-back season finishing 8-4. They had a shot at the Big Ten West title on the final weekend of the regular season and would have gotten it had Iowa lost at Nebraska, but the Huskers blew it.  

Minnesota did post its most impressive win of the year in the finale, knocking off No. 14 Wisconsin 23-13 – the Badgers would have won the West with a victory. Fleck’s team has been hampered by injury, especially at running back with the top three going down. Despite that, the Gophers rushed for 2,575 yards and 25 scores, which were the program's best marks since 2014 and 2016, respectively.  

Senior QB Tanner Morgan is 26-12 in his career as a starter, breaking the previous school mark of 24 career wins held by Mitch Leidner. Morgan has completed 546 (third-most in school history) of 890 passes (fifth most) for 7,963 yards (second-most) and 56 TDs (second-most) in his career. His completion percentage of 61.3 is tops in school history. 

Minnesota is an excellent defensive team, giving up just 284.8 yards and 18.25 points per game. That unit ranked second in the Big Ten in allowing 100.2 rushing yards per game. The Gophers have held seven straight opponents, and nine of their past 10, below their total offense average entering the game, including five by more than 100 yards. 

The Gophers haven’t played a Big 12 team since it opened the season the 2015 season at home against TCU. The Gophers have lost six straight against teams from the league

In bowl games, Minnesota is 9-12 all-time but has won the past four. The Gophers didn’t reach one last season but upset Auburn following the 2019 season in the Outback Bowl behind 278 yards passing and two scores from Morgan.  

Minnesota is 6-2 ATS in its past eight overall, played in a much tougher league, and has much better wins than West Virginia does. Simulations I have run have the Gophers winning by a TD.  

NCAAF Pick: Minnesota -3.5 (-118) with BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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Minnesota -3.5 (-118)
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