Fanpicks College Bowl Preview
Quick Lane Bowl Minnesota vs. Central Michigan
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Central Michigan nearly pulled off an impossible comeback the last time it appeared in the postseason; Minnesota merely achieved the improbable by qualifying for a bowl game despite a losing record. The Chippewas enter the Quick Lane Bowl at Ford Field in Detroit on Dec. 28 after falling just short of successfully overcoming a 35-point fourth-quarter deficit in last year’s Bahamas Bowl. The Golden Gophers are one of three five-win programs that earned a bowl bid this season based on its NCAA Academic Progress Report after not enough teams reached bowl eligibility.
Minnesota went 2-0 against the Mid-American Conference this year and will be making its fourth straight bowl-game appearance, but will be doing so under coach Tracy Claeys, who took over for Jerry Kill after he resigned his position on Oct. 28 due to health reasons. The Gophers went 1-4 under Claeys, although all four setbacks came against bowl-bound Big Ten teams with at least nine regular-season wins. In all, six of Minnesota’s seven losses came against opponents that either already have posted 10 victories or can reach that mark with a win in their bowl game.
Central Michigan trailed Western Kentucky 49-14 with less than 12 minutes left in the 2014 Bahamas Bowl before Cooper Rush connected on the first of five fourth-quarter touchdown passes – he finished with seven, the most by a quarterback in any bowl game. The 34-point rally was highlighted by a play that involved three laterals as time expired. The Chippewas’ bid to complete the comeback was thwarted, however, when the ensuing game-winning two-point conversion was batted away.
CENTRAL MICHIGAN Season Overview (7-5, 6-2 MAC): First-year coach John Bonamego kept Rush as the focal point of the offense and was rewarded as his junior quarterback completed 67.2 percent of his passes and set a single-season school record with 3,703 passing yards during the regular season – good for 10th in FBS in that category. Rush passed for multiple touchdowns in nine of his team’s 12 games and threw for four scores in two of those contests. Eight Chippewas have at least one catch that covered 25 yards and five players have at least 33 receptions, led by Jesse Kroll (59 catches for 856 yards) and Anthony Rice (56 for 584).
MINNESOTA Season Overview (5-7, 2-6 Big Ten): Shannon Brooks became the first Gopher since Laurence Maroney in 2005 to have four touchdown runs longer than 35 yards in one year and finished the regular season with 644 rushing yards – the sixth-highest total for a Minnesota freshman. The passing attack is led by Mitch Leidner, who set a program record for a junior with 218 completions and tied another one by passing for at least 250 yards in four straight games, and receiver KJ Maye, who tallied 65 catches for 706 yards. The Gophers’ secondary has a pair of likely future NFL cornerbacks in seniors Eric Murray and Briean Boddy-Calhoun, who held up the back end of the country’s 15th-ranked pass defense.