Match-up: Central Michigan (MAC) vs. Minnesota (Big Ten)
Spread: Minn (-5.5)
When: Tuesday, December 28th, 5:00 PM
Location: Ford Field. Detroit, MI
Where to Watch: ESPN2
Central Michigan Overview
The Chippewas had a brutal non conference slate (against Oklahoma State, Michigan State, and Syracuse) but were competitive in all three games. They ended up finishing with 7 wins, including 6 wins in the MAC. The Chippewas are led by a legitimate NFL prospect in quarterback Cooper Rush (6-foot-3, 227 pounds), and he threw for 3,703 yards and 25 touchdowns this season to lead one of the 15 most prolific passing offenses in the bowl subdivision.
Players to Watch
Cooper Rush (QB): Rush had an outstanding season for Central Michigan, as he led one of the most prolific passing offenses in the bowl subdivision and has made a case to be drafted into the NFL come April. Rush has the ability to win this game by himself on offense, so it will be vital for Minnesota to put pressure on him all game long.
Jesse Kroll (WR): Kroll had 856 receiving yards on the season and led the team in receptions with 59. He’s been a security blanket for Cooper Rush all season and this game will be no different.
How Central Michigan Can Win
Airing it out. Allow Cooper Rush to make plays with his arm by spreading out the Minnesota defense and being methodical up and down the field in the passing game. Keep throwing it until Minnesota proves it can stop the Chippewas.
It was a difficult season for the Gophers, as they lost coach Jerry Kill a quarter of the way in the season who was forced to retire due to health concerns. Since that point, the Gophers were clearly affected from a mental standpoint and failed to win any big games in 2015.
Players to Watch
Theiren Cockran (DE): The senior hasn’t been able to recapture the statistical magic he produced while leading the Gophers in sacks as a sophomore, Cockran is still an impact performer and there’s no doubt that he’ll want to end his career on a high note. This could be a difficult matchup for a Central Michigan offensive line that’s allowed more than two sacks per game.
Mitch Leidner (QB): The junior signal caller threw for nearly 2,500 yards this season to go along with 251 rushing yards. However, he had a dismal 13:10 touchdown-to-interception ratio, so he struggles to take care of the football. Making good decisions will be critical in this game going against a high powered Chippewas offense.
How Minnesota Can Win
Cut it loose in the passing game. The Gophers are still a work in progress throwing the football, but Leidner helped produce three 300 yard passing games down the stretch of the season, including a 317-yard outing in a near upset of Michigan that showed how dangerous the offense can be with threatening passing game.
Final Score Prediction: Minnesota wins 27-21.
Photo Credits: http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/SfRBU6HwCx-/Syracuse+vs+Minnesota/1O4srfFxTCM/Mitch+Leidner
Christian Reilly- @CReillyTV