West Virginia University is scheduled to play the University of Minnesota on December 28th at 9:15 PM EST in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. The Guaranteed Rate Bowl isn’t known for being one of the most prestigious bowl games, but both teams are grateful to have the opportunity to play one more game in the 2021 year. Minnesota finished their regular season 8-4 with a final standing of second in the Big Ten West. They had impressive wins against Purdue, Nebraska, and Wisconsin, which left them disappointed to not be placed in a higher bowl game. West Virginia ended their season 6-6 and landed in fifth place in the Big 12. They had influential wins against the ranked Virginia Tech and Iowa State. West Virginia has the higher statistics, but Minnesota is still projected the bowl game win. With West Virginia’s top rusher opting out of playing in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, WVU may struggle against the Minnesota team.
West Virginia Vs. Minnesota Betting Odds
West Virginia Betting Odds
The West Virginia Mountaineers have shown great improvement over the years. They finished in the middle of the pack for the Big 12 and caused some unpredictable upsets. In the bowl game, West Virginia was given a hefty underdog status by ESPN. The ESPN matchup predictor gives WVU a 38.9% confidence interval for victory. Without their star running back, West Virginia may be in trouble.
The WVU quarterback Jarret Doege will go in the school’s history books as the seventh most pass yards from a West Virginia quarterback. If he had his previous college’s stats from Bowling Green, he would be the second-best quarterback of the school, only trailing Geno Smith. Doege has 2,908 yards and 19 touchdowns this season. He has only thrown 11 interceptions, which is almost one per game. It’s surprising to see Doege did not declare for the draft, but it will be great to see him on the field again next week.
West Virginia’s offense heavily relied on the rush ability of Leddie Brown. Brown was able to accomplish 1,065 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns during his senior season. Unfortunately for WVU, Brown decided to opt-out of the Guaranteed Rate Bowl to “focus on his future.” The team’s second-leading rusher, Tony Mathis Jr, will have to fill the shoes of Leddie Brown. Mathis Jr. had 256 rushing yards on 59 attempts in his sophomore year. Although his stats are meek compared to Brown, Mathis has a lot of room to grow.
If the ball is going in the air, odds are Doege is looking for top receiver Winston Wright Jr. Wright Jr has 672 receiving yards and five touchdowns this season. His ability to read the field has helped lead his team to victory on many occasions. The Minnesota defense will need to keep an eye on Wright in order to prevent him from taking advantage of under coverage and put up large point sums for the Mountaineers.
Minnesota Betting Odds
The Minnesota Golden Gophers ended their season with a two-game win streak from Indiana, and the 14th ranked Wisconsin. Minnesota has been a spontaneous team all season, leaving it difficult for people to predict the game’s outcomes. It’s rare to see a team with significantly lower statistics in a quarterback and running back to be the favorite in a match. However, Minnesota’s given the favor in ESPN’s matchup predictor with a 61.1% confidence interval of victory. Although the stats are lower than WVU, the energy seems to be in favor of the Gophers.
The Minnesota quarterback, Tanner Morgan, has put up 1,935 yards and ten touchdown passes this season. Morgan is in his last year of college football and is trying to make his final game special. Although he may not have the most yards in the league, his improved accuracy throughout the season proves him to be an influential college player.
Morgan frequently hands the ball off to running back Ky Thomas. Thomas carried the ball 145 times for 680 yards and five touchdowns in his 2021 season. He averages 4.7 yards per carry, making him one of Minnesota’s most explosive players. It’s only his freshman year, so Thomas still has plenty of time to grow and can become the key to successful Gophers football.
When the play call says to throw the ball, Morgan depends on his top receiver, Chris Autman-Bell. Autman-Bell finished his last year of college football with 35 receptions for 490 yards. In the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, he will be a pivotal player to keep an eye on. His routes can dust the West Virginia defense and lead to big scoring plays.
West Virginia Vs. Minnesota Picks & Prediction
The Guaranteed Rate Bowl has the opportunity to be a great game. Although Minnesota is the projected favorite, I wouldn’t count West Virginia out of the running yet. DraftKings favors the Golden Gophers with a -5 (-110) spread and gave the Mountaineers +5 (-110). The over/under was set at 45 points. Since there is a chance for a close game, I would not be surprised if the game falls between a field goal. Minnesota has a much more vigorous defense compared to WVU, which makes me wary of picking the over bet. Minnesota has a record of putting up large point values while keeping their opponents at bay. West Virginia’s defense will have to show their best game to give themselves a chance against the Gophers.