Battle between Minnesota corners, CMU QB could determine Quick Lane Bowl
Who: Minnesota vs. Central Michigan
What: Quick Lane Bowl
When: Monday, 5 p.m. ET
Where: Ford Field, Detroit
Spread: Minnesota -5
Matchup to watch: Cooper Rush vs. Minnesota’s corners
One of the better matchups of the entire bowl season will pit CMU’s gunslinger against a pair of NFL-caliber corners in Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Eric Murray. Rush is a veteran signal-caller that can sling it all over the field. He finished the season with 300-plus passing yards in six of his last seven games. But he’ll be tested against a stout duo that is finally healthy. Boddy-Calhoun and Murray both have one more chance to show NFL scouts that they’re worthy of being among the top corners selected in the draft. On the flip side, Rush has a chance to show scouts that he can attack two of the nation’s best. The winner of this battle could easily determine who gets the edge on Monday.
Thing I’m excited to see: Tracy Claeys get his legs under him
It isn’t easy for a coach take over a team at the midway point of the season. Claeys was put in a tough spot, and all things considered, he handled it well. With a month to draw up a game plan, it’ll be interesting to see what Claeys draws up. Will we see a package that showcases emerging freshman tailback Shannon Brooks? Will K.J. Maye have an even bigger offensive role than he had down the stretch? Will Claeys send the kitchen sink at Rush to shake up the CMU passing attack? This is a good test for Claeys and his slightly revised coaching staff. If he handles it well, he’ll have a chance to build some nice momentum heading into a critical first recruiting season.
Number to remember: 3
I know, I know. By now, you’re sick of the fact that I keep referencing Minnesota’s 3-point margin of victory against its two MAC opponents this season. It’s worth mentioning because the Gophers didn’t do anything to prove that they were the more talented group. Minnesota can’t repeat some of the mistakes it made way back in September. A conservative offensive game plan made the Gophers predictable and much easier to defend. In those two contests, Minnesota lost the turnover battle 4-0. Mitch Leidner has to take better care of the ball, and the defense has to do a better job of capitalizing on mistakes to force takeaways. If the Gophers do that, they’ll have a much more comfortable lead than three points.
Prediction: Minnesota 28, Central Michigan 16
I actually think the Gophers match up perfectly with the Chippewas. The Gophers, despite their injury issues on the defensive side, still finished 14th in FBS against the pass. CMU has a completely one-dimensional offense. That should play right into Minnesota’s hands. I still don’t think the Gophers look like a finished product on offense, but a defensive score winds up being the play of the game for Minnesota. The bowl losing streak ends at seven and Claeys earns himself his best win to date.