2008 Insight Bowl Preview
by Trevor Whenham - 12/17/2008
Minnesota (7-5) vs. Kansas (7-5)
Conference matchup: Big Ten vs. Big 12
Date: Wednesday, Dec. 31, 6:00 p.m.
Location: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona
Spread: Kansas -10; total 58
These teams may have the same record, but they have arrived at it in very different ways. Minnesota is a team on a slow-but-steady rise under new coach Tim Brewster, the first competent head coach they have had in a long while. They were a pitiful 1-11 last year, so this year, Brewster's second, qualifies as an absolute miracle. Kansas, on the other hand, is on the way down from a blip of excellence last year. This 7-5 record is the second best Mark Mangino has had in seven seasons as head coach at Kansas, so last year's 12-1 record and Orange Bowl win truly seems out of place.
The Insight Bowl, in some form, has been played in the Phoenix area since 1989. For the first several years it was the Copper Bowl, and this is the third stadium it has been played in. The Big Ten and Big 12 affiliations are new as of 2006. This is the first appearance for Kansas, while Minnesota is back for a second time after losing to Texas Tech in overtime in 2006. Overall Kansas is 5-6 in bowls, and 2-1 this decade. Minnesota is 5-7, and 3-3 since 2000.
The line seems fairly solid at the key number of 10, though it has appeared higher in a book or two. Three-quarters of all bets have been on Kansas so far, though Minnesota was the better team against the spread (7-4 ATS vs. 6-5). The total opened at 57 and has climbed just slightly to 58. Kansas has gone over in five of their last six, though that's not that much of a surprise in the high-scoring, defensively-limited Big 12. Minnesota has gone over in their last two, but that ended a streak of five straight unders.
Momentum not in play
Neither team comes into this game riding a wave of momentum. After a 7-1 start, Minnesota dropped their final four, capping it off with a humiliating 55-0 loss to Iowa. They were just 1-3 ATS over that stretch, including two losses as 7.5-point favorites. Kansas is only slightly better. They ended their season with a surprising win over a struggling Missouri team, but they lost four of five before that. Kansas gets a bit more credit, though - three of their final four losses were to Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Texas. That's just a bit more impressive than Michigan, Iowa, Northwestern, and Wisconsin.
Todd Reesing, down but not out
Kansas' junior QB Reesing hasn't been mentioned among the elite quarterbacks of the Big 12 this year, but his year hasn't been nearly as bad as his lack of attention might lead you to believe. He has more yards this year in 12 games than he had last year in 13, his yards per attempt are identical, and his completion percentage is up impressively. His touchdowns are down slightly, but not enough to panic - 33 last year compared to 28 this year. Discounting Reesing here would be a mistake - he's a very legitimate college quarterback.
Defensive woes all around
The Gophers were let down by their defense down the stretch. They gave up almost 36 points per game in the last four games. It's hard to beat any team when you can't stop them, never mind one from the Big 12. It's not like you can expect Kansas to put on a defensive clinic, though. They allowed almost 30 points per game all season, and more than 45 per game against the three co-winners of the Big 12 South. Kansas is particularly bad against the pass. Minnesota QB Adam Weber has struggled to find consistency, but he has the ability to play well, and could exploit the Kansas secondary. This one certainly doesn't have the feel of a low scoring affair.
Trends to Note
The Golden Gophers are 6-1 ATS in their last seven as underdogs, 7-3 ATS in their last 10 overall, and 5-2 in their last seven on grass.
The Jayhawks are 5-0 ATS in their last five when favored by between 3.5 and 10. They are 7-1 ATS in their last eight non-conference games.
Minnesota has gone over in eight of their last nine non-conference games, and five of their last six as underdogs. The Jayhawks have gone over in five of their last six, and four of their last five against teams with a winning record.