The 2021 Guaranteed Rate Bowl features the 8-4 Minnesota Golden Gophers against the 6-6 West Virginia Mountaineers. Here is the 2021 Guaranteed Rate Bowl Preview.
Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-4)
Minnesota won eight games to qualify for their third bowl game in the P.J. Fleck era. They defeated four bowl-eligible teams this season. Of their four losses, two came to teams who didn’t qualify for a bowl game: Illinois and Bowling Green.
The Golden Gophers score 26.1 points per game, which is tied for 86th in the country. They rush for 193.8 yards (ranked 31st) and pass for 166.4 yards per game (ranking 115th).
Tanner Morgan has started at Minnesota for several years now. This season, he has passed for 1,935 yards, 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions on 59.7 percent completion. Five pass-catchers have over 200 receiving yards on the season. Their leading receiver is Chris Autman-Bell, who has caught 35 passes for 490 yards and six touchdowns. Mike Brown-Stephens and Dylan Wright each have over 300 receiving yards on the season.
After Mohamed Ibrahim went down with a season-ending injury, other players had to step up in the running game. Ky Thomas was the leading rusher with 680 yards and five touchdowns. It has been a running back by committee, with Mar’Keise Irving and Trey Potts having over 500 rushing yards on the season.
Their defense allows 18.3 points per game, which ranks ties them for ninth in the FBS. They concede 100.2 rushing yards (ranked ninth) and 184.7 passing yards per game (ranked 10th). Linebackers Jake Gibbens and Mariano Sori-Marin lead the team with 86 and 82 tackles respectively. Defensive lineman Thomas Rush leads the team with 5.5 sacks, while defensive back Tyler Nubin has the most interceptions on the team with three.
West Virginia Mountaineers (6-6)
West Virginia won six games to make their second-straight bowl game. They have wins over two bowl teams in Iowa State and Virginia Tech. All six of their losses came to bowl-eligible teams.
The Mountaineers score 26.8 points per game, which is tied for 78th in the country. They pass for 256.9 yards (ranked 44th) and rush for 128.2 yards per game (ranked 97th).
Jarret Doege has led the Mountaineers at quarterback for the last few seasons. He has passed for 2,908 yards, 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions on 65.8 percent completion. Six pass-catchers have over 200 receiving yards on the season. Winston Wright Jr. leads the team with 60 receptions for 672 yards and five touchdowns. Bryce Ford-Wheaton, Sam James, Sean Ryan and Isaiah Esdale each have over 300 receiving yards and at least one touchdown catch.
The running game was headed by star Leddie Brown, but he decided to sit out the bowl game. Tony Mathis Jr. is the only other running back with significant stats on the season with 297 yards and four touchdowns. The team’s second-leading rusher is actually backup quarterback Garrett Greene, so other backs will need to step up behind Mathis.
Their defense allows 24.3 points per game, ranking them 50th in the country. They give up 129.3 rushing yards (ranked 36th) and 220.1 passing yards per game (tied for 56th). Safety Josh Chandler-Semedo has made an impact with 104 total tackles. Defensive lineman Akheem Mesidor has led the team with 4.5 sacks.
It should be a low-scoring game in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. West Virginia will have a tough time moving the ball with Brown out at running back. Minnesota’s offense will do just enough to win the game.
Minnesota Golden Gophers 21 West Virginia Mountaineers 20
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