The Minnesota Golden Gophers make a return trip to the Texas Bowl. In last year’s installment, the Gophers came up a field goal short to Texas Tech, losing a by a score of 34-31. That loss cost Minnesota a chance to finish the season with a winning record. This time around, a win by the Golden Gophers would give them a nine-win campaign, their first since winning 10 games in 2003 and only their second in 108 years.
Head coach Jerry Kill and his defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys have done a remarkable job in guiding the Gophers. Minnesota was 4-1 with Kill on the sidelines. Then, seizures forced the head coach to take an indefinite leave of absence prior to the Michigan game. In stepped defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys to guide the team. Rather than losing focus and discipline, the Golden Gophers became an even closer-knit unit and won four of their last seven games. With Kill now back with the team, coaching from the press box, Claeys has remained poised and steadfast on the sideline. The Gophers look to both men for leadership and neither has disappointed this year.
Syracuse, meanwhile is going bowling for the second-consecutive season. One year after losing head coach Doug Marrone and starting QB Ryan Nassib to the NFL, the Orange and first year head coach Scott Shafer are headed back to a bowl game.
The 2013 season was a turbulent one for the Orange. After opening the season with two consecutive losses, Syracuse won six of their last 10 games including their season finale over Boston College. A win over Minnesota in the Texas Bowl would give Syracuse a winning season for the second consecutive year.