Minnesota vs Washington State Holiday Bowl Odds, Free Pick & TV Info
When: Tuesday, Dec. 27, 7 PM ET
Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego
Opening NCAA Football Lines: WSU -10 (61)
Why Bet on Minnesota?Minnesota is 8-4 this year and also won eight games in 2013 and 2014. The last time Minnesota won eight games three times in a four-year span was 1903-05 (14, 13 and 10 wins). The Gophers have now won at least eight games in a season 20 times in school history and nine times since 1942 and six times since 1968. The last time the Gophers won nine games in a season was 2003 when they won 10 games. Before that it was 1905, when they also won 10 games.
The Gophers were the fourth-highest scoring team in the Big Ten this season, as they averaged 30.3 points per game. Leading Minnesota on offense is senior quarterback Mitch Leidner, who will be playing his final game in the Maroon and Gold. Leidner has played in three previous bowl games and has put up impressive numbers. He has completed 56-of- 83 passes (67.4%) for 686 yards and four touchdowns in games against Syracuse (2013 Texas Bowl), Missouri (2015 Citrus Bowl) and Central Michigan (2015 Quick Lane Bowl). Leidner also completed 14 straight passes against both Missouri and Central Michigan, which is tied with Adam Weber (vs. Bowling Green in 2008) for the most in program history.
Rodney Smith just kept on piling up yardage and touchdowns for the Gophers. The sophomore running back finished fourth in the league with 1,084 yards — but only one player found the end zone more often than Smith, who punched in 16 touchdowns to lead the way back to a bowl game.
Minnesota will play in its fifth straight bowl game and 19th overall when it faces the Cougars. The streak of five consecutive bowls is tied for the longest stretch in program history, as the Gophers also played in five straight bowl games from 2002-06. Minnesota snapped a seven-game bowl losing streak last year with a win in the Quick Lane Bowl.
The Gophers have played Washington State five times and are 2-3 all-time against the Pac-12 member. All five games were contested in Minneapolis, but the teams has not met since 1988. Minnesota beat Washington State in 1976 and 1982 and fell to the Cougars in 1965, 1971 and 1988.
Why Bet on Washington State?Under fifth-year head coach Mike Leach, the Cougars finished the regular season 8-4 overall, 7-2 in the Pac-12 play, the second-straight season WSU posted an 8-4 record prior to the bowl game. The Cougars’ 7-2 conference mark is its best since 2003, when WSU went 10-3 overall, 7-2 in Pac-10 play.
The Cougars went into the final week of the season with the Rose Bowl still in play, so this is somewhat of a letdown. But that shouldn’t affect the team’s motivation heading into its most prestigious bowl game since 2003. WR Gabe Marks owns the Pac-12 career receptions record (312), and with 85 catches this season he is one monstrous game away from a second consecutive 100-catch season.
QB Luke Falk is among the nation’s passing leaders in several categories this season, including ranking second in completion percentage (413-for- 582, 71 percent), fifth in passing yards (4,204) and tied for sixth in touchdown passes (37). If he returns for his senior season next year and has a season similar to the past two years, Falk would move into the NCAA’s top five in career passing yards.
Washington State left guard Cody O’Connell was named a First-Team All-American by the Associated Press, becoming the first Cougar consensus All-American since running back Jerome Harrison in 2005. O’Connell, nicknamed “The Continent” by Leach, has started 11 games at left guard for the Cougars this season, protecting the nation’s second-rated passing offense (370.8) and blocked for a rushing attack that owns seven 100-yard efforts including three 200-yard performances. WSU’s rushing offense has improved greatly this season, going from 80.1 ypg in 2015 to 126.8 ypg in 2016. Most recently, he was ranked the nation’s best guards in the country by Pro Football Focus.
Washington State is making its second-straight bowl appearance, and third overall, in Leach’s five years, a first for a Cougar head coach. It also marks the 13th overall bowl game for the Cougar program. Last season WSU defeated Miami, 20-14, in the Sun Bowl.
Minnesota vs Washington State Holiday Bowl Free Pick: Washington State CougarsCougars are 9-3 ATS vs. a team with a winning record.
Over is 4-1- 1 in Cougars last 6 games overall. Go Wazzu and over the betting total.