The No.16 Missouri Tigers (10-3, 7-1 SEC) and No.25 Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-4, 5-3 Big Ten) will compete on New Year’s Day in the Citrus Bowl. Both teams are trying to end the season on a high note, following losses in their last game.
Missouri was the best team in the SEC East in 2014, but they were no match for the SEC West winner, losing to Alabama, 42-13, in the conference title game. The Tigers picked up two wins over ranked opponents this year, defeating then-No.13 South Carolina and then-No.24 Texas A&M. They were defeated at home by Indiana and Georgia.
Minnesota suffered a loss at Illinois, who only won six games in 2014, but their other three defeats came against some of the best teams in the country. In their third game, the Golden Gophers lost by 23 points to burgeoning TCU, and they suffered defeats to Ohio State and Wisconsin in two of their last three contests. In between those two losses, Minnesota picked up a win at Nebraska, making Thursday their fourth-straight game against a team in the Top 25.
Neither team is particularly good offensively, as Missouri ranks 77th in points per game (27.4) and Minnesota is No.61 in the country (29.3). The Tigers have relied on the No.24 scoring defense (21.4) to win 10 games, while the Golden Gophers rank 32nd in points allowed (23.4).
When Missouri’s defense falters, they don’t win. The team went 10-0 in 2014 when allowing 27 points or fewer. All three of the team’s losses came when giving up at least 31 points. Minnesota went 1-4 when surrendering at least 28 points.
Maty Mauk has thrown every pass for Missouri this season, completing 52.9 of his throws for 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Wide receiver Bud Sasser caught nearly half of those scores, grabbing 70 receptions for 935 yards and finding his way into the end zone 10 times. Russell Hansbrough is the team’s leading rusher with 970 yards on the ground.
The Golden Gophers rely largely on their running game to move the ball. Quarterback Mitch Leidner only completed 101 passes for 1,540 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, and Minnesota lost both games in which he attempted more than 25 passes. The team has rushed for nearly 2,700 yards, led by David Cobb, whose 1,545 rushing yards put him 13th in the nation. Maxx Williams leads the team with just 29 catches for 471 yards.
Start Time: 1:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC
Point Spread: Missouri favored by 4.5 points
Over/Under: 47.5 points
Prediction: Missouri over Minnesota, 24-17