NCAAF
December 28, 2021

West Virginia Mountaineers vs Minnesota Golden Gophers: 2021 Guaranteed Rate Bowl Gambling Guide - Dec. 28

The final game of the day is going to be a late one for those of us on the east coast as the West Virginia Mountaineers (6-6) will take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-4) in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. Might as well get the coffee brewing now, because we are looking at a 10:15 p.m. ET kick. 

The bowl game formally known as the Cheez-It, Cactus, and Buffalo Wild Wings Bowls will feature a Minnesota team that turned its season around after an embarrassing home loss to a MACtion school and a West Virginia team that cannot find any sort of consistency. For this bowl, one team has a massive advantage, and the other, well, it might be a long night for them.

If you decided to gamble, we would love for you to tail our picks. If you do that, we just ask that you do so responsibly.

How do these teams match up, and who has the edge? Well, let's find out.

Why West Virginia Can Cover:

Betting Trends:

  • 2-3 ATS in last five games
  • 6-6 ATS this season
  • The total has gone OVER in three of the last five games
  • 2-6 SU in last eight games as an underdog

Quarterback Jarret Doege came back for his final year of eligibility, but he could never find a rhythm this season. He finished the season completing 66% of his passes for 2,908 yards and 19 touchdowns. As a team, West Virginia's passing offense was only ranked 76th in yards per pass, 51st in passing yards per game, and 87th in quarterback sack percentage. 

Those numbers are not bad, and the pass is how West Virginia has won some games this season. On the ground, however, the Mountaineers are quite dreadful. They are only picking up 3.6 yards per carry and 121.5 rushing yards per game. Leading rusher Leddie Brown did just go over the century mark with 1,065 yards rushing with 13 touchdowns, but outside of him, West Virginia only picked up a collective 470 rushing yards. 

Normally, this would not be a problem as we just need Brown to go off for one more game, but he has opted out of this game, and an already mediocre running game got even more mediocre. The only thing West Virginia can take solace in is the fact that they have some wins against Iowa State, Texas, Virginia Tech, and they only lost to Oklahoma by three. 

It also helps that Minnesota lost to Bowling Green at one point this season. 

Why Minnesota Can Cover

Betting Trends:

  • 6-2 ATS in last eight games played
  • 7-4-1 ATS this season
  • The total has gone UNDER in last five games played in December
  • 6-2 SU in last eight games 

Not only did Minnesota lose to Bowling Green at one point this season, but they lost to them at home. Since then, the Golden Gophers are 6-2, and they are averaging 26.4 points per game while only giving up 16.7 points per game. 

While quarterback Tanner Morgan has plenty of experience, he was pretty bad this season. He only completed 59.7% of his passes and had 10 touchdowns to eight interceptions on the season while only picking up 1,935 yards. 

The rushing game is ranked 61st in yards per rush (94.3) and 32nd in rushing yards per game (195). Unlike West Virginia, Minnesota has three backs that all produce. With Ky Thomas, Trey Potts, and Mar'Keise Irving all over 550 yards rushing and 110 carries, Minnesota has enough bodies to keep everyone fresh and punish any front seven. 

Minnesota does not break a lot of big plays, but their offensive line is among the best in the Big Ten, and their depth will be the biggest factor in this game. Defensively, Minnesota is in the top 10 in scoring, yards per game, rushing yards per game, and pass completion percentage. If all of those hold in this game, there is not a lot that West Virginia is going to be able to do. 

Guaranteed Rate Bowl Best Bet:

*Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook

Simply put, this is just a matchup nightmare for the Mountaineers. The one thing they do slightly well, which is passing the ball, will meet the 10th ranked defense against the pass. Minnesota only allows 184.7 passing yards per game and 6.6 yards per pass. If West Virginia cannot do better than what Minnesota is allowing, then this is going to be ugly.

West Virginia has won four of their last six, but they have failed to cover in nine-straight December games, and they are 2-4 ATS in their last six against the Big Ten. Meanwhile, Minnesota is on a run ATS, and they were a respectful 7-4-1 ATS this whole season. 

What Minnesota does well, which is basically being a very experienced group, plays to West Virginia's weaknesses, which is almost everything. I expect the Golden Gophers to pound the ball with their trio of rushers, and then have Morgan pick apart one of the worst secondaries in the country when his number is called.

Pick: Minnesota -5.5 (-110)

Photo: Getty Images