Syracuse will face Big 10 opponent Minnesota in the 2013 Texas Bowl in Houston. Here is a quick look at the game:
BAROMETER OF PROGRESS: When Syracuse faces Minnesota in the 2013 Texas Bowl, it will serve as a barometer for how far the Orange has come since the start of the year. SU started the regular season against Penn State at MetLife Stadium in August, and an offense that was still searching for an identity dropped a 23-17 decision. A week later, Syracuse was throttled by another Big 10 opponent, Northwestern, 48-27. That was the final game where quarterback Drew Allen was the undisputed starter. The Orange changed quarterbacks midway through their matchup against Tulane, and Terrel Hunt has retained the position ever since then. SU’s offense also went back to its offensive roots, turning to a physical grind-it-out running game to produce its offense. That change in philosophy allowed Syracuse to clinch a bowl berth for the second season in a row, the first time the school has done that since the 1998-99 seasons. A win against a quality Big 10 opponent would certainly show the progress SU has made throughout the year.
SCOUTING THE GOPHERS: Minnesota was one of the worst passing teams in the Big 10, and, like Syracuse, had a midseason change at quarterback. Between Philip Nelson and Mitch Leidner, the passing game ranked 116th in the NCAA with 141.8 passing yards per game. It was made even worse when top receiver Derrick Engel suffered a knee injury in November. That being said, Minnesota, like Syracuse, forged an identity as a tough, down in the trenches running team, with junior David Cobb rushing for 1,111 yards (6th in the Big 10) and seven touchdowns. A rugged offensive line pave the way for an average of 200.9 yards per game. Defensively, the Golden Gophers held opponents to 22.3 points per game, which was 27th in the NCAA. The defense struggled in games against Michigan and Indiana, but in its final three games, held Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan State to an average of 14.6 points per game.
HISTORICALLY SPEAKING: Minnesota holds a 3-1 edge in the all time series. The last time these two teams played was in the 2012 season, with Syracuse losing 17-10 at TCF Bank Stadium. It as a sloppy loss, as the Orange committed four turnovers, with two coming from Ryan Nassib interceptions. SU also was flagged 10 times, including four false starts.
GAME INFORMATION: Friday, December 27, 2013 at 6 p.m. at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. TV: ESPN.