In 2020, the college football bowl season was extremely limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, we missed out on a traditional bowl game at Chase Field.
Fortunately, though, football will be making a comeback to the Arizona baseball venue in 2021 with the Guaranteed Rate Bowl.
On Dec. 28, two teams from two Power 5 conferences will go head to head as the Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-4) from the Big Ten will take on the West Virginia Mountaineers (6-6) from the Big 12.
Bowl games are typically major tourist attractions, and fans of both schools will soon be making the trip to the Grand Canyon State. This will be the first time Minnesota and West Virginia have ever played each other.
It will also be the first college football bowl game in the era of legal Arizona online sports betting.
Arizona sportsbooks: Minnesota slight favorite over West Virginia
The Guaranteed Rate Bowl will be the first of three college bowl games to kick off in Arizona this season. Instead of Diamondbacks home runs, folks will be rooting for touchdowns at Chase Field.
According to online sportsbooks in Arizona, the Gophers sit as slight favorites in this game with the point spread at .
The over/under for total points in the game is at . That would point toward a game that is heavy on defense and low on high-powered offense.
32nd Guaranteed Rate Bowl
West Virginia Mountaineers (6-6) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-4)
Date: Tuesday, Dec. 28
Time: 8:15 p.m. MST
Location: Chase Field – Phoenix, Arizona
TV Coverage: ESPN
Guaranteed Rate Bowl: Minnesota ball control vs. West Virginia air attack
The bowl season is a chance for college football fans (and college football betting fans) to see teams that they probably haven’t paid close attention to during the season. So when you sit down to watch the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, here are some things you can expect.
Minnesota plays an old school brand of football
Most top college football offenses like to spread it out and chuck the ball all over the field with five-star quarterbacks and wide receivers. The Minnesota football team is not that. In fact, the Gophers are nearly the furthest thing from that.
Minnesota likes to shorten games by running the ball, playing for field position and making timely plays in the passing game. The Gophers run the ball nearly 70% of the time. That is only behind Army, Navy and Air Force. Minnesota will often have six or seven offensive linemen on the field and will generally go over 30 seconds in between offensive plays.
That doesn’t mean the Gophers don’t pass. Senior quarterback Tanner Morgan ranked eighth in the Big Ten in passing yards and passing touchdowns. The mix of a strong running game and experienced quarterback play had Minnesota only one game short of appearing in the Big Ten title game.
The Gophers have rebounded well after a disappointing 2020 season. Last year, on the heels of finishing in the top 10 of the Associated Press Poll, Minnesota sent several key players to the NFL Draft and had others miss games due to COVID outbreaks. In 2020, the Gophers went just 3-4 and missed out on a bowl game.
Head coach PJ Fleck has been able to flip the script in 2021, and now the arrow is pointing up on the Minnesota program.
West Virginia will go as far as QB can take it
While Minnesota likes to play keep-away with the football, West Virginia fairs better when they attack through the air. The Mountaineers ranked fourth in the Big 12 in passing with over 256 yards per game. Conversely, they finished dead-last in the conference by averaging under 128 rushing yards.
Quarterback Jarret Doege has had what could be called an up-and-down season. Fans in West Virginia have called for him to be benched several times throughout the year. Many feel he missed several opportunities to help West Virginia upset a highly ranked Oklahoma team. However, he was able to do enough to help lead his team to victories against Virginia Tech, Iowa State and Texas.
West Virginia head coach Neal Brown went into the 2021 season with expectations that the Mountaineers would compete at the top of the Big 12, and key returners from the 2020 season across the board would help make that goal a reality. Things didn’t go as planned, though, and West Virginia needed a win over Kansas in the last game of the regular season just to become bowl eligible.
There is a lot of uncertainty in the Big 12 with blue-blood programs Texas and Oklahoma expected to leave and join the SEC in the coming years. Meaning, the position at the head of the table is wide open. A win in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl could help propel West Virginia into that top spot.
Minnesota-West Virginia Betting Insights
We won’t provide you with advice on how to bet on the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. But some interesting betting-related notes have emerged from this matchup. Do (or don’t do) with them as you see fit.
- In 12 games this year, Minnesota has seven wins against the spread.
- The Golden Gophers are 3-3 ATS when favored by 3.5 points or more this season.
- Minnesota’s games this year have eclipsed the over/under six times (50%).
- The Gophers closed the year with momentum, covering in six of the final eight games.
- West Virginia is 6-6 against the spread this season.
- The Mountaineers are 3-2 ATS when underdogs by at least 3.5 points.
- West Virginia’s games this year have eclipsed the over/under five times (41.7%).
- Brown has been great in bowl games, winning all four of his appearances. That includes when West Virginia beat Army in the Liberty Bowl last season.