Central Michigan (7-5) vs. Minnesota (5-7)
Dec. 28, 5 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Reason to Watch
The Quick Lane Bowl should provide plenty of drama: eight of Central Michigan’s games were decided by less than a touchdown this season, and the same can be said for six of Minnesota’s contests. The Chippewas will be hoping their passing attack, which averaged 313 yards per game in 2015, can save them from a second consecutive bowl loss after they fell 49–48 to Western Kentucky in the 2014 Bahamas Bowl. The Gophers’ 15th-ranked passing defense (182.4 passing yards allowed/game) will be responsible for helping them avoid a similar fate following a loss to Missouri in the 2015 Citrus Bowl.
Keep an eye on: CMU QB Cooper Rush
Central Michigan had the 14th-ranked passing attack in the country with Rush under center. The junior threw 25 touchdowns on the year with 10 interceptions, averaging eight yards per attempt. He also benefited from a deep receiving corps that got big contributions from sophomores Corey Willis and Mark Chapman, as well as upperclassmen Jesse Kroll and Anthony Rice.
Rush will have his hands full with Eric Murray and Briean Boddy-Calhoun, a pair of senior defensive backs who were the only members of the Gophers defense to grab All-Big Ten honors this year, both appearing on the media’s third team.
Did You Know...?
Minnesota was eligible for a bowl this season despite a 5–7 record as only 77 teams had the requisite six wins to gain eligibility, despite 80 openings. The Gophers, along with Nebraska and San Jose State, were the five-win teams with the highest academic progress rates (APR), and mark the highest amount of sub-.500 teams to appear in any bowl season.
Minnesota may have a losing record but it has faced much stiffer competition than Central Michigan in 2015, taking losses from five ranked opponents, and Big Ten teams have won 10 of 12 games against the MAC this season. The Gophers also carry the weight of the nation’s longest bowl game losing streak into Detroit, having dropped their last seven postseason contests.
Still, Central Michigan is playing in its home state, and the team has the kind of potent passing attack that can cause problems for any opponent. If the Chippewas can get the kind of strong production they saw out of running back Martez Walker in the regular season finale against Eastern Michigan (117 yds, 17 carries) against a weak Gophers run defense, they will be in a good position to extend Minnesota's bowl futility.