After a very strong run to close the regular season, Bowling Green will look for a huge bowl win over Minnesota of the Big Ten on Tuesday (12/26/23) for this year’s Quick Lane Bowl. Get Bowling Green vs Minnesota odds, picks and predictions below, as our best bets is Bowling Green +4.5.
Bowling Green vs. Minnesota Prediction
A huge part of making picks in bowl seasons is evaluating motivation levels; in this age of opt-outs, transfers and more, the team that wins a bowl is often the team that simply wants it more and fields their best players. This game definitely looks like it could fall into that category, as Minnesota very well could be throwing in the towel.
The Gophers got off to a pretty solid start this season, with a 5-3 record through eight games. But they managed to lose every single game the rest of the way to finish 5-7. Mercifully, there weren’t enough bowl-eligible teams to compete this year, so after the addition of James Madison and Jacksonville State, who are transitioning from FCS to FBS, there was still one slot remaining. Minnesota was selected, as the 5-7 team with the highest Academic Progress Rate score from the most recent period of reporting.
The apathy around the program can be exemplified by the quarterback situation. Season-long starter Athan Kaliakmanis is hitting the transfer portal, and will not play. Backup Drew Viotto is also departing. There were reports that it took $30,000 of NIL money to persuade Cole Kramer to come back and make his first-ever start, reports that have been refuted by Kramer himself, but the overall situation is pretty dismal. Kramer has thrown one pass this year, which was intercepted. He’s thrown a total of 14 times in college.
Bowling Green is in a rather opposite situation. After a 2-4 start, the Falcons managed to win five of their last six games to secure bowl eligibility with a week to spare. They lost by just a point to highly touted MAC squad Toledo, and should have plenty of motivation to win the program’s first bowl since 2014, when Dino Babers led them to a win over South Alabama in the Camellia Bowl.
It’s not an opponent-adjusted stat, but Bowling Green’s EPA of +0.12 is good enough for an impressive 31st in the country, and is particularly favorable compared to Minnesota’s figure of -0.12, the nation’s 114th-best mark. The Gophers of course did play better teams, but the point stands that it has not been an impressive season in Minneapolis. Unsurprisingly, Bowling Green also has the edge in terms of transfers and opt-outs, highlighted of course by the Minnesota QB situation.
These teams have both been defense-first all year, and don’t expect that to change, even if star Minnesota safety and projected first-round pick Tyler Nubin does opt out. It might be an even better bet for Bowling Green to keep this one close. The game means much more to them, their metrics are better, and they’ll have more of their best players on the field; +4.5 is a great number for them.
Bowling Green vs. Minnesota Prediction: Bowling Green +4.5
Bowling Green vs. Minnesota Best Odds
Minnesota is a relatively narrow favorite in this one with a spread of -4.5, while they’re -176 on the moneyline to win outright. Bowling Green’s end of the moneyline is +146, while both sides of the total of 39.5 are -110.
Bowling Green vs. Minnesota Key Matchups
Bowling Green’s ground attack has been one of the country’s most efficient this year, and will look to run on a thin Minnesota defense, while the Gophers will need to try their best to generate some ground offense with an inexperienced passer at the helm.
Minnesota Rushing Offense vs. Bowling Green Run Defense
To absolutely nobody’s surprise, Minnesota has had a tough time replacing the production of superstar back Mohamed Ibrahim who ran for over 1,600 yards along with 20 touchdowns last season. The Golden Gophers ranked 90th in EPA per rush this year, as starter Darius Taylor got out to a fantastic start but missed the rest of the year with an injury. He played just five games and still leads the team in rushing- that just about says it all.
Taron Keith has been much less productive, but will have to attack a Bowling Green run defense that ranked 55th by EPA per play this year. That’s a far cry from the 10th-best figure earned by their pass defense, but still solid against a shorthanded unit. Lineman Dontrez Brown has been the Falcons’ best run-stopper this year, while linebacker Darren Anders has been a steady off-ball anchor.
Bowling Green Rushing Offense vs. Minnesota Run Defense
The bad news is that the Falcons will be without second back Taron Keith, who ran for 5.9 yards per carry and provided a good alternative option. The worse news is that Terion Stewart, by far the team’s leading rusher despite playing in three fewer games than Keith, will be out as well. The Bowling Green offense racked up the 13th-best EPA on rushing snaps this year, much better than their anemic passing numbers with Indiana transfer Connor Bazelak at quarterback, but we’ll have to see what they look like without their top runners.
Luckily for Bowling Green, Minnesota’s ground defense barely ranked inside the top-100 by EPA. Yes, they played some really strong rushing teams, but plenty of Big Ten defenses still graded very well against the run. This is not a special unit. Top linebacker Maverick Baranowski will be out for Minnesota, so the D-line, led by edge rusher Anthony Smith and tackle Kyler Baugh, will have to step up and slow down that diminished Bowling Green attack.