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Texas Bowl Primer: Syracuse vs. Minnesota

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Jerry Kill and the Golden Gophers return to the Texas Bowl for a chance at redemption. Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images.
Jerry Kill and the Golden Gophers return to the Texas Bowl for a chance at redemption. Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images.

Goldy and the Gophers keep improving under Jerry Kill’s tenure to the amazement of many. The third-year coach continues to battle health problems, but still helped guide Minnesota to eight wins, the program's best mark in a decade.  

Meanwhile, Syracuse is precariously perched at .500 after squeaking past Boston College. Both teams carry momentum, but only one can keep it heading into 2014.  

Minnesota

Motivation: Whatever Kill’s selling in Minneapolis, someone had best find it, bottle it and sell it.

With the Big Ten expanding yet again, shoving Wisconsin into the renamed West Division, the Gophers are starting to look like they could become a threat down the line. This program is aching for the bar to be raised.  

If You’ve Never Seen Them: The Gophers don’t take to the air much. They’re content to grind on you like the stereotypical Big Ten team. Minnesota's on a two-game losing streak, but don’t let that fool you. Those two games were against Michigan State and Wisconsin. The Gophers kept things too close for comfort for both opponents, losing by a combined 24 points.  

Weakness: Minnesota’s extra man is the clock. Kill’s team averages an amazing 26 plays per touchdown this season. It also has struggled to come out of the game firing on all cylinders. Minnesota owns a point total advantage in every quarter except the first, where it trails by 22. Jump on the Gophers early and keep their offense off the field.   

Syracuse

Motivation: Nobody likes to be a loser, and that’s what the Orange will be if they drop this game. Seriously, they’ll have a losing record if they don’t beat Minnesota. A win ends a horrifically rocky season on a high note. A loss crashes the roller coaster into the ground.  

If You’ve Never Seen Them: Erratic is a good word to describe Syracuse. The Orange are anything but a well-oiled machine and, much like the Gophers, have trouble starting out on a positive note ... only worse. Syracuse often plays to its opponent's level. Well, tries to, anyway.

Weakness: If Syracuse is to have success, it needs to establish an effective ground game early. If it can’t, the Orange likely will be playing catch-up all day. Running back Jerome Smith has potential to be the team's savior as taking to the air wouldn’t be wise against a Minnesota secondary that has surprised this season.  

Las Vegas Hilton Line: Minnesota -3.5