|Bowl Game Preview: Inisght Bowl|
|Written by TheSpread|
|Friday, 29 December 2006 10:20|
One-Sided Betting in The Insight Bowl; Public All Over Texas Tech
85% of Bets Placed on Texas Tech -6.5 | Matchup | CFB Picks
The Red Raiders and Gophers try to end mediocre seasons on a positive note when they meet for the first time in the Insight Bowl on Dec. 29 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.
Oddsmakers have made Texas Tech -6.5 point spread favorites
Texas Tech (7-5) began 2006 with high hopes following a 9-3 finish last year and a second-place tie in the Big 12 South. The Red Raiders were ranked 25th in the preseason AP poll and moved up to No. 24 in the next two, but their first loss of the season to then-No. 20 TCU on Sept. 16 dropped them out for good.
That was the only defeat in the first five games for Texas Tech, which capped its hot start with a 31-27 win over Texas A&M. The Red Raiders couldn't maintain that success once they got into the heart of their conference schedule, going 3-4 over their final seven games.
Texas Tech did earn its seventh straight bowl appearance under coach Mike Leach and 30th overall. The Red Raiders won three straight bowls from 2002-04, but lost to Alabama 13-10 last season in the Cotton Bowl.
They played in the Insight Bowl in 1995, when it was known as the Copper Bowl, beating Air Force 55-41.
``This selection is a credit to our team, coaching staff and fans for all of the hard work they put in this season,'' Leach said. ``The Insight Bowl is a great bowl in a great location that provides a great matchup with the Big 12 and Big Ten Conferences. We are excited about the opportunity to face Minnesota and look forward to spending some time in Phoenix.''
The Gophers (6-6) are appearing in a bowl for a school-record fifth consecutive year, but took a very different path than the previous four. Minnesota began each of the last four seasons with a winning streak of at least four games before enduring a late-season letdown.
This time around, the Gophers struggled early, losing five of their first seven games. They rebounded to win four of their last five, including the final three of the season after a 44-0 drubbing by No. 1 Ohio State.
``With the way the season went, we had to set goals towards the end of the year,'' said Gophers senior quarterback Bryan Cupito, who threw for 2,556 yards, 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
``To end up 6-6 and go to a bowl game is definitely a good thing.''
Minnesota needs a win to avoid its first losing season since 2001.
The Gophers went to bowl games the next three seasons, but fell 34-31 to Virginia in last season's Music City Bowl. Minnesota, which is making its seventh bowl appearance in eight seasons, played in the Music City Bowl three of the last four years.
The Gophers will need to step up their pass defense to be successful against Texas Tech. Minnesota allowed 253.5 passing yards per game this season - the seventh-worst mark in the country - and will face one of the nation's top passers.
Texas Tech sophomore Graham Harrell completed 66.9 percent of his throws this season, ranking second in the country with 35 touchdown passes and third with 342.5 yards per game. He had 10 interceptions.
``There is no secret about what they try to do and what they do very well,'' Gophers linebacker Mike Sherels said. ``It will be a big challenge for our defense, but also a challenge that we welcome because it will help us prepare going into next season. It's always good to see different types of teams, especially being a young defense.''
That young defense will likely key in on Texas Tech senior wide receiver Joel Filani, who led the Big 12 with 1,138 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Red Raiders receiving corps boasts numerous threats, though, including Robert Johnson (80 receptions, 774 yards, 10 TDs) and Shannon Woods (72 receptions, 553 yards, two TDs).
Woods has proven tough to defend as he was also the team's leading rusher with 133 carries for 817 yards and seven touchdowns. No other Red Raider has more than 50 total rushing yards this season, however, emphasizing their one-dimensional offense.
Both teams relied heavily on their offenses this season as the Red Raiders averaged 41.9 points in their wins, but just 17.0 in their losses. The Gophers scored 40.7 in their six victories, only 15.2 in six defeats.
Minnesota will be without one of its top players as senior tight end Matt Spaeth had surgery on his severely separated shoulder recently and could be sidelined up to four months. He was originally hurt Oct. 21, but missed only one game and played the final three games despite the injury.
Spaeth is the school's all-time leader in receptions (109) and yards (1,293) by a tight end, and won the John Mackey Award this season, given to the nation's top tight end. In his absence, the Gophers will likely rely more heavily on top wide receiver Logan Payne, who had 56 catches for 786 yards and eight TDs this season.
Running back Amir Pinnix has led the Gophers ground game with 218 carries for 1,093 yards and nine touchdowns.
The Red Raiders are 8-20-1 in bowl games while the Gophers are 5-6.
by: Anthony White - theSpread.com - Email Us
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