Game to be played at Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California
After watching its Rose Bowl hopes fade with two late losses, Washington State looks to end the season on a winning note as the Cougars face Minnesota in the National Funding Holiday Bowl in San Diego on Dec. 27. Washington State bounced back from two early losses to contend in the Pac-12 before closing with back-to-back losses to Colorado and rival Washington, while Minnesota will play in a bowl game for a program record-tying fifth straight season. The Gophers will be hard-pressed to slow down the Cougars’ Air Raid attack, which led the Pac-12 and placed second nationally at 370.8 passing yards per game.
It will be even tougher for the Gophers to slow Washington State’s passing attack after it was announced Tuesday that 10 Minnesota players were suspended from the Holiday Bowl stemming from an incident in an off-campus apartment Sept. 2. Among those who will not play are starting defensive backs KiAnte Hardin – a sophomore – and freshman Antoine Winfield Jr., along with secondary reserves in freshman Ray Buford and sophomore Antonio Shenault. Hardin recorded two interceptions, six passes defended and a fumble recovery while Winfield had a pick, four passes defended and two fumble recoveries.
Washington State junior quarterback Luke Falk has completed 71 percent of his passes for 4,204 yards and 37 touchdowns against 10 interceptions, and he’s been helped this season by a surprising running game led by the trio of Jamal Morrow, James Williams and Gerard Wicks. In order to keep Falk and the Cougars’ explosive offense off the field, Minnesota will need to control the clock behind sophomore Rodney Smith, who finished fourth in the Big Ten with 1,084 rushing yards and scored 16 touchdowns. Senior quarterback Mitch Leidner added 10 rushing touchdowns but threw 12 interceptions.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN.
LINE HISTORY: Oddsmakers pegged Washington State as 5.5-point favorites, but they have since moved all the way to -10. The total opened at 60 and have been bet up to 61. Check out the complete line history here.
WEATHER REPORT: It should be a beautiful night for football in San Diego, with the forecast calling for clear skies and temperatures in the low 60’s.
Minnesota – DB A. Starks (questionable Tuesday, undisclosed), OL J. Weyler (questionable Tuesday, tricep).
Washington State – LB I. Dotson (questionable Tuesday, undisclosed).
ABOUT MINNESOTA (8-4, 4-5-3 ATS, 6-6 O/U): While first-year coach Tracy Claeys failed to record any marquee victories, the Gophers avoided any major missteps and nearly won at Penn State in early October before falling 29-26 in overtime. Leidner has completed 56.4 percent of his passes for 2,040 yards and seven touchdowns, including five to Southern California native Drew Wolitarsky, who has caught 61 passes for 787 yards. The Gophers ranked 13th in the Big 10 in pass defense but linemen Steven Richardson and Blake Cashman combined for 13.5 sacks and could help disrupt Falk’s rhythm.
ABOUT WASHINGTON STATE (8-4, 6-6 ATS, 7-4-1 O/U): Falk is without injured starting wide receiver River Cracraft but still has a pair of potent deep threats in Gabe Marks and Tavares Martin Jr., who combined for 146 catches, 1,575 yards and 20 touchdowns. Left guard Cody O’Connell was named a first team All-American while safety Shalom Luani joined Marks as an All-Pac-12 first team selection after recording four interceptions along with 58 tackles, including 8.5 for loss. The Cougars’ underrated defense includes linebacker Peyton Pelluer, who had a team-high 89 tackles and will play a key role in slowing down the Gophers’ running game.
* Minnesota is 1-5 ATS in their last six vs. Pac-12 opponents.
* Washington State is 6-1 ATS in their last seven games following a straight up loss.
* Under is 4-0 in Minnesota’s last four games following a straight up loss.
* Under is 4-0-1 in Washington State’s last five games following a straight up loss.
See the full list of hot and cold trends here.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The public is backing Washington State in this matchup, with 66 percent of wagers on the Cougars. As for the total, 65 percent of the wagers are on the Over. Check out full consensus data here.