After several weeks since their last game, the WVU Mountaineers finally take the field once again on Tuesday night for the Guaranteed Rate Bowl.
According to West Virginia sportsbooks, the Mountaineers are receiving around +5 in the point spread.
WVU will look to prove the books wrong and come away with a victory in a bowl game for the second straight year. It defeated Army last season in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.
Although the Mountaineers hold just a 6-6 record, they’ve come on strong to finish the regular season. They beat both Texas and Kansas in the final two weeks to secure bowl eligibility.
Now, on Tuesday night, they’ll battle a Big Ten foe in Minnesota. The Golden Gophers went 8-4 during the campaign and finished second in the west division.
The start of this contest is a late one, with the kickoff slated for 10:15 p.m. EST. It takes place at the Arizona Diamondbacks’ home of Chase Field, in Phoenix, Arizona.
WVU Football Bowl Odds At WV Sportsbooks
It’s not too surprising to see Minnesota come in as the favorite leading up to the bowl game based on the results from the regular season. It won two more games than WVU did in a conference that’s arguably better than the Big 12 overall.
The Gophers finished their schedule in a similar fashion to WVU by taking their last two following a tough stretch. They concluded the year with a win against Indiana on the road, then a 10-point triumph over No. 14 Wisconsin. This result prevented Wisconsin from getting into the Big Ten title game.
On offense, Minnesota tends to rely on its running attack more often than airing it out. The team had multiple freshmen step up into massive roles because of injury. Both Ky Thomas and Mar’Keise Irving see plenty of carries and can do a lot of damage.
Thomas led the Gophers with 680 yards on 145 carries, while Irving totaled 570 yards with 114 rushes. The two combined for nine rushing touchdowns.
They didn’t see their usual success against Wisconsin, generating just 94 yards on 30 carries.
This will be a major factor in the bowl game with WVU.
If the Mountaineers can slow down Minnesota’s ground game, then they might force it to pass more often. Senior quarterback Tanner Morgan is capable, but the Gophers aren’t built to pass consistently.
The Mountaineers must focus on limiting runs on early downs, forcing Minnesota into third-and-longs.
They’ll need their defensive front playing fast throughout the night. Linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo recorded 104 tackles this season to lead all others on WVU. His 64 solo tackles ranked 21st of everyone in the country.
WVU Football Vs. Minnesota Preview
The Mountaineers’ offense will be looking to do a lot of the same when they have the ball.
Running back Leddie Brown was once again one of the main contributors, eclipsing his yardage total from a year ago.
The senior from Philadelphia rushed for 1,065 yards while averaging 4.8 per attempt. Brown also caught 36 passes for more than 200 yards. His 14 touchdowns were tops on the Mountaineers.
Head coach Neal Brown is likely to lean on Brown as much as possible to open the field up for quarterback Jarret Doege and several quality weapons.
Doege nearly surpassed 3,000 yards passing, hitting on around 66% of his throws.
WVU features lots of talented players on the outside, including a trio of elusive receivers. Winston Wright Jr., Bryce Ford-Wheaton and Sam James make up a formidable group that can create issues for opposing secondaries.
The Mountaineers will run as long as they’re not too far behind on the scoreboard, but they won’t be afraid to take some shots down the field as well.
At the moment, DraftKings WV lists the Mountaineers receiving +5.5 in the spread, with a moneyline at +180. Minnesota is available giving the points, or straight up with odds of -220.
The game total is slightly lower than in most WVU contests, sitting at 44.5 right now.
For a good portion of the year, the Mountaineers have shown success in the first half of games. DraftKings has them getting +3.5 in the first-half spread, with a moneyline of +165.
The online sportsbook provides a lot of alternate options for the spread, too. WVU backers can choose to reduce the points and move it to just +2 for the game, but with odds of +155.
You can also go the other way, taking WVU receiving +7.5 points at -150 instead.