Gophers try to shed controversy when they face Cougars

SAN DIEGO (AP) Minnesota (8-4, Big Ten) vs. Washington State (8-4, Pac-12), 7 p.m. EST (ESPN).

Line: Washington State by 10.

Series Record: Washington State leads 3-2.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

The Gophers are trying to regroup after backing down from their threat to skip this game if 10 teammates suspended after a sexual assault investigation weren't reinstated. Their boycott lasted less than 36 hours, with university leadership never blinking. The players backed down amid pressure from many who read details of the allegations. Now they face a high-flying Cougars team that sandwiched eight straight wins around season-opening losses to Eastern Washington of the FCS and Boise State, and regular season-ending losses to Colorado and Washington.

KEY MATCHUP

Golden Gophers defense against Washington State QB Luke Falk, who runs Mike Leach's Air Raid offense. Falk, a redshirt junior, has completed 71 percent of his passes for 4,204 yards and 37 touchdowns.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Minnesota: RB Rodney Smith has rushed for 1,084 yards and 15 touchdowns, and DL Steven Richardson has seven sacks.

Washington State: WR Gabe Marks was All-Pac-12 first team after finishing second in the conference with 85 catches and 13 touchdowns, and third with 867 yards.

FACTS & FIGURES

The Gophers are in a bowl for a fifth straight year, tying a program record. ... Minnesota is in a California bowl for the first time since the 1962 Rose Bowl. ... The Gophers ended a seven-game bowl losing streak in the Quick Lane Bowl and are 6-12 in the postseason. ... The Cougars are 7-5 in bowls and have played in the Holiday twice, beating Texas 28-20 in 2003 and losing to BYU 38-36 in 1981. ... Leach also brought Texas Tech to the Holiday Bowl in 2004, beating California 45-31. ... The Cougars have scored at least 50 points in a school-record four games this season, and their win over Stanford was their first over a top-15 team since 2003. ... The schools last met in 1988, when Dennis Erickson's Washington State team won 41-9 in the second game of the season.

---

More AP college football: http://collegefootball.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-Top25

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.