Central Michigan Chippewas vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Monday – December 28 – 4:00 pm CT
Ford Field – Detroit, Michigan
Records Before the Game
Central Michigan Chippewas (7-5, 6-2 MAC)
Minnesota Golden Gophers (5-7, 2-6 Big 10)
How They Got Here
The Chippewas had a 2-4 record after their first six games and appeared to be going no where fast. They settled down though once conference play began and really got going, only losing to Toledo while collecting five wins. Most of their conference games were close wins so this unit must be mentally tough. This is their second straight bowl appearance and are seeking their first eight-win season since going 12-2 back in 2009. The Golden Gophers on the other hand were dealt a huge blow when then head coach Jerry Kill was forced to retire due to health concerns. They were 4-3 at the time and were only able to defeat Illinois after that. They lost a couple of really close games to Michigan and Iowa. This is the fourth straight bowl for the Golden Gophers and made this one based on academics since there weren’t enough teams that were bowl eligible. Minnesota though has lost seven straight bowl games and are looking to end the streak.
Central Michigan Chippewas
The man under center is junior QB Cooper Rush who passed for 3,703 yards and 25 TDs this season. The Chippewas aerial attack is 14th in the country. So look for them to pass a lot. Rush will certainly target his favorite receiver Jesse Kroll. Kroll led the team with 59 receptions for 856 yards. That being said, Rush will spread the defense as evidenced by the team having five receivers with at least 33 receptions and 500 yards. When they need to turn the ground game, Rush will hand the ball off to junior RB Martez Walker. The shifty runner didn’t have much support from his o-line only producing one game, the last regular season game with over 100 yards on the ground. Walker might get a ball or two thrown his way, but don’t expect much.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
The Golden Gophers were undoubtedly shook up with the departure of Kill and the lack of productivity on offense showed. Junior QB Mitch Leidner has the opportunity though to set a strong foundation with a strong performance in this bowl game. For the season, Leidner has passed for 2,478 yards and 13 TDs while having 10 interceptions. He isn’t a natural dual-threat type of quarterback but isn’t afraid to scamper for a few yards when flushed out of the pocket. Nearly 1/3 of Leidner’s passing yards are from senior KJ Maye. The wide out isn’t the tallest, nor the fastest receiver you’ll see; but he runs his routes well and has soft hands. Freshman RB Shannon Brooks has been a nice surprise out of the backfield. In nine games this season he nearly rushed for 200 yards in two of them. He’s a load to bring down when he gets going.
Prediction: Chippewas 38 – Golden Gophers 33