The 2012 Meineke Car Care Bowl features the Minnesota Golden Gophers and Texas Tech Red Raiders, two teams with similarly colorful mascots and drastically dissimilar playing styles.
Texas Tech's high-scoring offense contrasts poetically with the Gophers' reserved, defense-first mentality. Minnesota's defense hasn't been enough to curry favor from the public, though: Texas Tech is getting 13 points from Vegas, one of the biggest spreads in all of bowl season.
The game is a rematch of the 2006 Insight Bowl, when Texas Tech famously erased a 38-7, third-quarter deficit with a 24-0 fourth quarter, before eventually winning 44-41 in overtime.
We may not get something quite as exhilarating, but regardless, Texas Tech games tend to be easy on the eyes. Let's take a look at three key players who will make a major impact on the outcome:
QB Seth Doege, Texas Tech
It's not about whether the senior QB will dominate. It's about the extent to which the senior QB dominates.
The Red Raiders' passing game is an unstoppable force and has been for a long time. Even sans Mike Leach, Texas Tech has continued to dominate teams through the air. This season was no exception, as Doege and the Raiders averaged 361.9 yards per game—good enough for second-most in the country.
Minnesota has been stout defensively, but the Big Ten isn't exactly known for its offensive prowess. This will be a passing game unlike anything the Gophers have seen.
If they aren't up to the challenge of making things tough for Doege, he could shred them apart like a group of high schoolers.
CB Michael Carter, Minnesota
If the Gophers want to stop the Raiders' potent passing game, Carter will need to play his best game of the season.
That's a loaded statement since Carter, the All-Big Ten honorable mention (and egregious snub), developed into one of the league's best cover corners this season.
The senior stalwart was good-to-great all season long, albeit against underwhelming competition. He's one of the many reasons Minnesota ranked No. 11 nationally in defending the pass.
Carter will have his work cut out for him against Texas Tech senior Darrin Moore, the Raiders' most talented offensive player. If Moore gets lost on Carter Island, Doege will be left without his favorite target. That can only mean good things for the Gophers.
DE D.L. Wilhite, Minnesota
In case you can't tell, the outcome of this game will most likely rest on how Minnesota deals with Texas Tech's passing game. And if they want to deal with it successfully, they won't just need to do well in the secondary; they'll need to harass Doege in the pocket.
That's where Wilhite comes in.
The 6'3'' senior from Kentucky has been one of the most consistently dominant defenders in the Big Ten this season, earning second-team All-Conference honors from the media.
If Minnesota stands a chance of slowing down the Raiders, Wilhite will need to be in Doege's face, unfastening his comfort zone, for 60 full minutes.
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