Sunday, December 6, 2009
By ESPN.com staff
Minnesota (6-6) vs. Iowa State (6-6)
Dec. 31, 6 p.m. (NFL Network)
The Insight Bowl might not attract much national attention, but you can bet it'll mean a lot in the upper Midwest.
Minnesota and Iowa State haven't played since 1997, but the two schools are separated by only 215 miles and share a hated rival in the Iowa Hawkeyes. Iowa State makes its first bowl appearance since 2005, while Minnesota returns to the Insight Bowl for the second straight year and for the third time in the past four seasons.
This is a very critical game for Gophers fourth-year coach Tim Brewster and a team that broke even despite boasting the Big Ten's most experienced roster. A victory would secure consecutive winning seasons and build momentum for 2010, when Brewster's recruits will occupy most of the key roles. A loss would increase doubts about the program's direction and put Brewster squarely on the hot seat.
The Insight Bowl typically is high scoring, but don't expect too many points on Dec. 31 in Tempe, Ariz. Minnesota has been shut out twice this season and ranks 98th nationally in scoring (21.6 ppg), while Iowa State is even worse, coming in 102nd in scoring (21.1 ppg). Both teams have quarterbacks (Minnesota's Adam Weber, Iowa State's Austen Arnaud) who can do big things, but also hurt their teams with turnovers.
Defense is certainly Iowa State's calling card, as the Cyclones have held opponents to 17 points or fewer in each of their six wins. Minnesota also relies heavily on its defense, particularly linebackers Lee Campbell, Nate Triplett and Simoni Lawrence, but needs some offensive playmakers to emerge at Sun Devil Stadium.