Washington State vs. Minnesota prediction and game preview. Projecting who wins the Holiday Bowl between the Cougars and Golden Gophers.
When: Tuesday, Dec. 27 – 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California
TV Broadcast: ESPN
The Cougars (8-4) had a real shot at making it into the Pac-12 title game. All they had to do was beat their most hated rival, Washington, in the Apple Cup. However, that didn’t work out too well for Wazzu. The Huskies destroyed Washington State, 45-17, on the heels of the Cougars’ loss to Colorado. But Mike Leach’s team was able to find the magic to put together an eight-game winning streak before that, so maybe Wazzu regroup.
In his first season as head coach of Minnesota (8-4), Tracy Claeys has done as great of a job as one could have asked for considering the circumstances in which he took over the job from Jerry Kill. The Golden Gophers pieced together two winning streaks of three and four games, respectively. Three of their four losses are to teams ranked in the top 25 (Penn State, Nebraska and Wisconsin). The other loss was at home to Iowa on Oct. 8, 14-7.
There have been five all-time meetings between the Cougars and Golden Gophers, and it’s Wazzu with the edge, 3-2. The last time they met, though, was in 1988 when Washington State won in Minneapolis, 41-9.
What To Know About Washington State
The key for Wazzu lies at the game’s most important position. Luke Falk has played his way into a first-round grade by completing 71 percent of his passes for 4,204 yards and 37 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. Wide receiver River Cracraft tore his ACL, so his season ended with 53 catches for 701 yards and five touchdowns. But Falk still has Gabe Marks and Tavares Martin Jr. to drop the ball to down the field. They’ve combined for 146 catches, 1,575 yards and 20 touchdowns.
The Cougars can move the ball on the ground, too, with a three-headed monster in the backfield. James Williams has taken 98 carries for 573 yards and six touchdowns. Jamal Morrow leads the team with 6.6 yards per carry, and he’s taken 85 touches for 562 rushing yards and five touchdowns. But it’s Gerard Wicks who leads the team with 11 rushing touchdowns, and he’s picked up 449 yards on 83 carries.
What to Know About Minnesota
Mitch Leidner has not seen the same kind of success from the pocket that Falk has this season. Leidner has completed 56.4 percent of his passes for 2,040 yards, seven touchdowns and 12 interceptions. His leading receiver is Drew Wolitarsky, who has caught 61 passes for 787 yards and five touchdowns.
The key for Minnesota is its running game. Rodney Smith has racked up 1,084 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns to lead the team. Leidner is right behind him with 10 rushing touchdowns, and he’s run for 340 yards. Shannon Brooks is the other key player in the ground game with 599 yards and five touchdowns on 125 carries.
Offense: Washington State – The combination of Falk and Marks is simply too much for Minnesota.
Defense: Minnesota – The Golden Gophers are No. 32 in scoring defense, allowing 22.9 points per game.
Special Teams: Minnesota – Emmit Carpenter has hit on 41-of-42 extra points and 21-of-23 field goal attempts.
Coaching: Washington State – Mike Leach has led his team to a great season and almost found a way into the conference title game.
Matchup To Watch
Minnesota running game vs. Washington State defense
The Golden Gophers have no chance at stopping Falk, nor can they limit Marks. So, they have to find a way to keep both of them off the field, and that comes with running the ball efficiently and converting on third down. If Smith and Brooks can be patient and hit the holes hard, Minnesota can slow the game down.
Spread: No line as of publication
Over/Under: No line as of publication
Washington State vs. Minnesota Prediction
The Golden Gophers will try to extend the game by keeping the ball on the ground, but that will only work for so long. Wazzu will load the box and get the ball back into the hands of Falk. He’ll have a big day and will strike for 300 passing yards and four touchdowns. He’ll find Marks for two of those scores, and the Cougars will ease on into yet another victory.
Washington State vs. Minnesota Score Prediction: Washington State 49, Minnesota 31
Campus Insiders Staff Picks
Brian Stultz: Washington State
Jeff Bartl: Washington State
Rich Cirminiello: Washington State
Robert Judin: Washington State
Jordan Cornette: Washington State