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Minnesota Putting Fans To Sleep

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Philip Nelson and the Minnesota Gophers try to beat teams by running the ball 72 percent of the time, because they can't seem to find a way to pass. Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images.
Philip Nelson and the Minnesota Gophers try to beat teams by running the ball 72 percent of the time, because they can't seem to find a way to pass. Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images.

Penn State won’t be the most important visitor in Minneapolis this week.

No, it will be Outback Bowl officials from Tampa Bay who are there to watch the game and consider Minnesota for a potential appearance. The Gophers (7-2, 3-2) are the Big Ten’s enigma. You never really know what you’re going to get from them from a result’s standpoint.

But I can promise you this, the Outback Bowl isn’t going to like what they see, because the Gophers are an inconsistent team. Without a passing game, the team doesn't have a prayer when it finds itself down at halftime.

Only once have Minnesota quarterbacks Philip Nelson and Mitch Leidner combined for more than 200 passing yards and more than one touchdown, throwing for 325 yards and four touchdowns, all by Nelson, against Indiana’s defense, which has more holes than the ozone layer.

Hell, Minnesota has only passed for 150 yards twice this season.

Do you really want to watch an old-school offense run the ball 72 percent of the time?

OK, maybe you do. But the Gophers don’t have an explosive running game. It’s all smoke and mirrors, trying to confuse the defense as to where the ball is and picking up five-yard chunks one run after another.

A disciplined defense (which the Penn State lacks, unless you count DaQuan Jones and Glenn Carson) should have no trouble playing their responsibilities and stuffing the Gophers’ every run.

The Gophers would be helpless on defense if it weren’t for their own mammoth defensive lineman, Ra’Shede Hageman.

The guy blows up offensive lineman like drill dummies, but he alone isn’t worth the price of admission.

A great college football player with a good chance to be taken in the 2014 NFL Draft’s first round? Yes, absolutely, but you’re going to find one of those guys in nearly every bowl game.

As a whole, this Minnesota team just doesn’t have the ‘it’ factor to play in the Outback Bowl.