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December 29, 2006

Insight Bowl: Texas Tech vs. Minnesota

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Head-to-Head Breakdown

Minneapolis and Lubbock are separated by more than 1,100 miles, but there is even greater distance in their offensive philosophies.

Minnesota has produced at least one 1,000-yard rusher in each of the last eight seasons, including Amir Pinnix this year. Texas Tech has gone eight seasons without one.

Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell has thrown for 4,110 yards thus far to extend a streak of seven seasons in which a Red Raider has passed for at least 3,000 yards. No Minnesota quarterback has ever thrown for more than 2,600 in a season.

However, the teams do have this in common: The Gophers and Red Raiders both have won three of their last four bowl games with the loss coming last season.

Insight Bowl: Texas Tech (7-5) vs. Minnesota (6-6)
When: Dec. 29, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Tempe, Az.
TV info: NFL Network (Derrin Horton, Dick Vermeil, Alex Flanagan)
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Conference: Big 12
Record: 7-5, 4-4
Coach: MIke Leach (55-33 in seven seasons at Texas Tech)
Passing leader: Graham Harrell (376 of 562 for 4,110 yards, 36 TDs, 10 INTs)
Rushing leaders: Shannon Woods (133 carries, 817 yards, 6.1 yards per carry, seven TDs)
Receiving leaders: Joel Filani (80 catches, 1,138 yards, 12 TDs)
Defensive leaders: DE Keyunta Dawson (60 tackles, 7½ for losses, six sacks, 11 QB pressures, one fumble recovery, two forced fumbles)
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Conference: Big Ten
Record: 6-6, 3-5
Coach: Glen Mason (64-56 in 10 seasons at Minnesota)
Passing leader: Bryan Cupito (195 of 328 for 2,556 yards, 19 TDs, eight INTs)
Rushing leader: Amir Pinnix (218 carries, 1,093 yards, 5 yards per carry, nine TDs)
Receiving leaders: Logan Payne (56 catches, 786 yards, eight TDs)
Defensive leaders: S Dominic Jones (78 tackles, two for losses, two INTs, three passes broken up, one forced fumble)
Texas Tech running game vs. Minnesota run defense: Although Shannon Woods' 6.1 average per carry is the highest for a Texas Tech RB since Byron Hanspard averaged that in 1995, running remains an after-thought for the pass-happy Red Raiders. They average only 76.3 yards rushing per game. SMU, in the season opener, was the bowl eligible opponent that allowed Tech more than 81 rushing yards. Woods has not carried more than 15 times in any game this season. Minnesota allowed at least 150 rushing yards to nine opponents, and Division I-AA North Dakota State had 143. Perhaps the biggest difference here appears to be that Tech doesn't choose to run, while Minnesota just cannot stop it. Edge: Texas Tech
Texas Tech passing game vs. Minnesota pass defense: Only at Texas Tech can the pass offense rank third nationally with 363.3 yards per game and it be considered a down year. The Red Raiders led the nation in passing the previous four years. First-year starting QB Graham Harrell has thrown for 36 TDs and 10 interceptions, not that high a total compared to his 561 attempts. WRs Joel Filani and Robert Johnson are both big targets with more than 80 catches. Woods has 72 catches out of the backfield. Aided by short routes and quick releases, the Red Raiders have allowed just 17 sacks. Minnesota ranks 115th in pass defense, which doesn't bode well when facing the Red Raiders. The Gophers have allowed more than 300 yards passing in each of their last three games. S Dom Barber has four of the 15 interceptions Minnesota has this season, but the Gophers have allowed 22 touchdown passes. Edge: Texas Tech
Minnesota running game vs. Texas Tech run defense: Averaging 151 rushing yards per game isn't bad, but compared to recent years Minnesota is stuck in neutral. After all, the Gophers have just one 1,000-yard rusher this year. Quick and shifty Amir Pinnix has rushed for 1,093 yards and nine TDs. He closed the regular season with consecutive 100-yard performances, but that's pedestrian by Minnesota's standards. The Gophers had two 1,000-yard rushers in each of the previous three seasons and ranked 20th or better nationally the last five years - including fifth or better the last three. Still, Pinnix extended to eight Minnesota's consecutive years with a 1,000-yard back. The running attack clearly isn't as dominant. The Gophers were held to fewer than 100 yards in three games, including managing just 99 against North Dakota State. Texas Tech has historically been soft defensively, and this season is no exception. The Red Raiders have allowed an average of 147.4 rushing yards per game, and have been gouged for more than 200 yards four times. The only opponents to rush for fewer than 118 yards against Tech were Baylor and Iowa State (which rank 119th and 99th in rushing offense) and Division I-AA Southeast Louisiana. Edge: Minnesota
Minnesota passing game vs. Texas Tech pass defense: Minnesota QB Bryan Cupito threw for at least 243 yards in each of the last three regular season games. He has a big-play threat in WR Logan Payne. The Gophers also do a good job in pass protection, having allowed just 16 sacks. Texas Tech ranks a respectable 25th nationally in pass defense, but that may be partially a result of teams preferring to run against the Red Raiders. Opposing QBs are completing 58.1 percent of their passes. Safety Darcel McBath leads with three interceptions, while DE Keyunta Dawson has posted six of the Red Raiders' 29 sacks. Edge: Minnesota
Coach vs. Coach: Texas Tech's Mike Leach is quirky and controversial, but also very successful. He has led Tech to bowl games in each of his seven seasons in Lubbock, and is already third on the school's all-time win list. Under Leach, Texas Tech has never won fewer than seven games and has won three of their last four bowl games. Ten years ago, Glen Mason took over a Minnesota program that had not won more than six games in 11 seasons and had endured six consecutive losing records. Mason has had only one losing season in the last eight years. With a bowl victory, he will extend a streak of consecutive winning seasons to five. His teams have won three of their last four bowl games. His 64 victories are the second most in school history. Edge: Minnesota
Texas Tech will win if: The Red Raiders need QB Graham Harrell to have a productive game. Minnesota's pass defense is vulnerable, and the Red Raiders must take advantage of that with Harrell distributing the ball to his big receivers. Harrell has thrown at least one interception in four of the Raiders' five losses. He combined for five picks in defeats at the hands of Missouri and Colorado, so that's an obvious key.
Minnesota will win if: The Gophers are best when Amir Pinnix is gaining yards rushing. He has averaged 98.8 yards rushing in the Gophers' six victories. If he's running well, QB Byan Cupito will find more space in the secondary and the Texas Tech offense won't get on the field as much. Forcing turnovers - a strong point for the Gophers this season - will always help, too.
Injury situation: Texas Tech RB Baron Batch (ankle) is out. Minnesota's Mackey Award winning TE Matt Spaeth (shoulder) is out. Minnesota S Trumaine Banks (broken arm) is listed as probable.
Worth noting: Texas Tech will be without WR Jarrett Hicks (academics) and offensive lineman Ofa Mohetau (suspended). … Minnesota leads the nation in turnover margin with a +1.33 average. The Gophers have forced 29 turnovers this year. … The Gophers need to put up 188 rushing yards to notch 2,000 yards rushing and passing for the eighth consecutive year. … Dominic Jones averages 24.4 yards to rank 30th nationally in kickoff return yardage and averages 11.5 yards to rank 21st in punt return yardage. … Texas Tech is making its second Insight Bowl appearance, having defeated Air Force 55-41 in 1995. … The Insight Bowl provides a homecoming for Tech receiver Joel Filani, who is from Tempe, Az. Filani needs 124 yards receiving to set a Texas Tech record for single-season receiving yardage. With 12 TD catches, he needs two more to break the single-season record held by teammate Jarrett Hicks. … Texas Tech has scored on 86.5 percent of its ventures into the Red Zone. On 52 Red Zone penetrations, the Red Raiders have scored 31 touchdowns and 14 field goals.
Line: Texas Tech by 6
Prediction: Texas Tech 38, Minnesota 31.
Other Rivals.com Expert picks:
Steve Megargee, national college football writer: Texas Tech 34-21
Bobby Burton, editor-in-chief: Texas Tech 38-35
Bill King, RivalsRadio host: Texas Tech 38-31
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