Sunday, December 6, 2009
By David Ubben
Iowa State ( 6-6) vs. Minnesota (6-6)
Dec. 31, 6 p.m. (ESPN)
Insight Bowl officials jumped all over the Cyclones, picking them over teams with a better record.
The Cyclones were one of the biggest surprises in the Big 12, claiming six victories to earn a bowl berth under first-year coach Paul Rhoads. But a close examination reveals that they defeated only one team with a winning record all season -- a 9-7 triumph at Nebraska where they forced eight turnovers, including three inside the Cornhuskers' 5-yard line.
The Cyclones struggled offensively when quarterback Austen Arnaud and running back Alexander Robinson were injured. But, new defensive coordinator Wally Burnham helped craft a gritty defense that was smaller than most opponents, but overachieved and ranked 27th in turnover margin.
Meanwhile, the Gophers will be making their third Insight Bowl trip in the last four seasons – not exactly a mark of distinction among Big Ten teams.
Tim Brewster’s team limped home with four losses in its last six games and failed to score an offensive touchdown in its final two games. The Gophers never really recovered from the loss of standout wide receiver Eric Decker and ranked last in the Big Ten in offense. Their lack of offensive weapons should make this a relatively equal battle with the Gophers.
These two teams were early rivals, playing 22 times between 1895-1924, but have met only three times since then. It was in the 1923 game where Jack Trice sustained an injury that later took his life, becoming a iconic martyr whose spirit pervades Iowa State to this day. The Cyclones haven't beaten Minnesota since 1898.