2021 Guaranteed Bowl Preview: Minnesota expected to overcome West Virginia for first win

Matchups between teams in the Big 12 and the Big Ten are always widely anticipated in college football and the 2021 edition of the Guaranteed Rate Bowl will be no different as West Virgina Mountaineers take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

The game, which will be played at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday, December 28, 2021, with kickoff scheduled to happen at 20:15 pm  MST and will be broadcast across the entire United States on ESPN.

What can fans expect?

As mentioned, meetings that feature a Big 12 and a Big Ten team have always been matches that many fans of college football have continued to look forward to, as have those who like to place a bet on the action. Indeed, those who consider using the best sports betting site in VA will already be able to place a wager on the outcome of the game, with the Minnesota Golden Gophers rated as the favorite to win on the day.

It should, though, be important to note that the game between the two sides will be the very first-ever contest between the two. However, both have experiences of playing in the Bowl in the past. West Virginia does have a 1-1 record with their 2016 win over Arizona State in an incredible 43-42 contest being the last time they appeared, whilst Minnesota, unfortunately, hold a 0-3 record after defeats in 2006, 2008 and 2009.

One reason why a contest such as this has always proven to be popular is due to the fact that the Big 12 and Big Ten conferences are two of the most successful conferences within college football. The Bowl has seen this type of match take place eight times between 2006-13, with many of them featuring some of the highest fan attendances around, including the 2011 edition when Iowa and Oklahoma broke the record with 54,247 fans in attendance.

What and who to look out for on the West Virginia team?

Entering the Guaranteed Rate Bowl with a 6-6 record (which consists of a 4-5 record in Big 12), West Virginia comes into this year’s edition for the 18th time in the last 20 years

The team has plenty to offer in regards to offense this season, with star running back Leddie Brown and quarterback Jarret Doege both putting up strong numbers throughout the college football campaign.

Brown led the offense with 1,095 yards and 13 touchdowns as he went past the 1,000 rushing yards mark in back-to-back seasons; the first time a player from West Virginia has managed to do that since 2016. Doege was second overall in regards to the figures he posted in the entire Big 12, with 2,908 passing yards, as well as a total of 19 touchdowns.

It was not just offense that came up big, though, as the defense was led by Dante Stills, who is a First Team selection senior defensive lineman. He recorded a total of 32 tackles, 25 solo and led the team with a total of six sacks and 13 tackles for loss. In the secondary, he was helped by linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo, who led the team with 104 tackles, with 64 of those being solo.

What can be expected from Minnesota?

There is no surprise that the Minnesota Golden Gophers are rated as the betting favorite, with the team heading into the 2021 Guaranteed Rate Bowl with an 8-4 record, which consists of a 6-3 record in the Big Ten.

The team has a highly experienced squad, with the offensive line stacked with veteran talent. Daniel Faalele, Blaise Andries, Jon Michael Schmidtz, Connor Olson and Sam Schlueter all earned accolades and honorable mentions for their performances this season, and given that they managed to help the team rush for a total of 2.575 yards and 25 scoring plays with the use of five different running backs, their recognition is well deserved. Expect this group of players to have a huge impact in the upcoming Bowl game.

Additionally, the team were also excellent on the other side of the ball all season, as well. Defensive lineman Boye Mafe, who is in his senior year, led the defense with six sacks, nine tackles for loss and made 30 total tackles. He was joined by senior linebackers Jack Gibbens and Mariano Sori-Marin, who both led the Gophers in tackles made with 86 and 82 respectively.

Overall, the Gophers’ defense managed to rank as the nation’s fourth-best defense following the conclusion of the regular season, allowing just 284.8 yards per game, thus highlighting the job that West Virginia’s Brown and Doege will have when trying to create and execute offensive plays.

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