BUFFALO WILD WINGS CITRUS BOWL STORYLINES
1. Minnesota plays in a January bowl game for the first time in 53 years when it meets Missouri in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1. The Golden Gophers last such contest came Jan. 1, 1962, when they defeated UCLA 21-3 in the Rose Bowl. Minnesota is playing in only its 17th bowl game and has qualified for a bowl in three straight seasons for just the second time in program history.
2. Both head coaches - Missouri's Gary Pinkel (SEC) and Minnesota's Jerry Kill (Big Ten) - were named Coach of the Year by their conferences after their teams exceeded expectations. Missouri won its second straight SEC East title after being picked fourth in the preseason, while Minnesota tied for second in the Big Ten West after being picked to finish fifth in the division. Missouri lost to No. 1 Alabama in the SEC title game 42-13 on Dec. 6.
3. Minnesota (tied for 11th, plus-28) and Missouri (tied for 20th, plus-8) rank among the national leaders in turnover margin. The Golden Gophers have forced 28 turnovers (15 fumbles, 13 interceptions) and committed 17 (eight fumbles, nine interceptions). The Tigers have 22 takeaways (10 fumbles, 12 interceptions) and 14 giveaways (three fumbles, 11 interceptions).
TV: 1 p.m. ET, ABC. LINE: Missouri -5
ABOUT MISSOURI (10-3, 7-1 SEC): The 14th-ranked Tigers are playing in their ninth bowl game in 10 seasons and their second straight January bowl thanks to a dominant defense. The unit led by consensus All-America defensive end Shane Ray (61 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 14 sacks) ranks 23rd nationally in total defense (344.2) and 26th in scoring defense (21.4). The offense has been erratic but boasts two capable running backs in Russell Hansbrough (970 yards, nine touchdowns) and Marcus Murphy (767 yards, four TDs), and quarterback Maty Mauk (2,551 yards, 23 TDs, 11 interceptions) has an All-SEC wideout in Bud Sasser (70 catches, 935 yards, 10 TDs).
ABOUT MINNESOTA (8-4, 5-3 Big Ten): The Golden Gophers are trying to clinch their second nine-win season in 109 years. Minnesota's offense is centered around the ground game and senior running back David Cobb, who has rushed for a school-record 1,545 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, though sophomore tight end Maxx Williams (29 catches, 471 yards, seven TDs) also is an offensive weapon. Like the Tigers, the Golden Gophers' strength lies on the defensive side of the ball, and Minnesota is especially tough against the pass thanks to All-Big Ten cornerbacks Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Eric Murray, who have combined for five interceptions and 15 pass breakups.
PREDICTION: Missouri 27, Minnesota 23