The Minnesota Golden Gophers will face the Washington State Cougars in the Holiday Bowl. The game is scheduled for Tuesday, December 26th. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 EST at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. Oddsmakers have the Cougars as a 6.5-point favorite with the total at 60 points.

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Holiday Bowl Vegas Spread Preview: Washington St vs Minnesota

The Golden Gophers (8-4) finished up at 5-4 (T-4th) in the Big Ten West. Minnesota is headed to their 5th straight bowl game, though were fortunate to make one last year. They got an invite to play in a bowl, despite a 5-7 record. They took advantage of the opportunity and beat Central Michigan 21-14 in the Quick Lane Bowl. It was the Gophers first bowl win since 2004.

The Cougars (8-4) finished with an identical record, but had the more impressive season. Washington State went 7-2 in the Pac-12 North. They hosted in-state rival Washington in the finale for the right to play in the Pac-12 title. Not only were they lose that contest, but they were embarrassed 45-17. The Cougars will be playing in their 3rd bowl game in 5 years under head coach Mike Leach. Last year, they won 20-14 over Miami (FL) in the Sun Bowl for their first bowl win since 2003.

Holiday Bowl Free Betting Pick & Predictions: Washington State -6.5

I would have to lay the points with the Cougars in this one. I know it’s not the Rose Bowl like they were hoping for, but it’s still a really big game for Washington State. In fact, it’s the best bowl game they have had since playing in this same bowl back in 2003. Without question, it’s the biggest of the Leach era.

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I actually think we are going to see a really motivated Washington State team here. Losing the way they did to the Huskies in their finale, is not going to sit well with this team. I look for them to come out looking to make a statement against Minnesota.

Not to take anything away from the Gophers, but their 8-4 record isn’t all that impressive. Minnesota’s best win was a 29-12 home victory against Northwestern, who went just 6-6. While they were competitive against some of the better Big Ten teams, they weren’t able to beat them. Outside of the Wildcats, their 4 other conference wins were against Maryland, Rutgers, Illinois and Purdue. Who combined went 6-30 in Big Ten play.

While Minnesota clearly wasn’t the class of the Big Ten, the conference as a whole has got a lot of praise. I think we are going to see anyone who is playing a Big Ten team come out with something to prove.

I also think this is a great matchup for Washington State. Offensively, the Cougars are built around the nations 2nd best passing attack (370.8 ypg). Minnesota’s defense has been great against the run, but struggled versus the pass. Looking at the Gophers schedule, they also haven’t played many good quarterbacks. The best was Penn State’s Trace McSorley, who threw for 335 yards against them. Luke Faulk should have his way here against the Gophers defense.

As for Washington State’s defense, this couldn’t be a better matchup. The Cougars were 28th against the run (132.9 ypg), compared to 121st against the pass (283.6 ypg). Minnesota ranked 54th in rushing (186.4 ygp) and just 108th in passing (177.3 ypg).

I’m not saying they are going to shut the Gophers down completely, but they should be able to get more stops. In the end, that should be enough to win here by at least a touchdown.