2009 Insight Bowl Could Paint a Different Picture Than Past Years

B.Senior Analyst IDecember 28, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 01:  Brandon Green #2 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers makes a catch in front of Sherrick McManis #26 of the Northwestern Wildcats during the third quarter at the Hubert H.Humphrey Metrodome on November 1, 2008 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

In the recent years, Insight Bowl games have been high scoring endeavors.

Since 2003, Insight Bowl teams have a combined total of 475 points in the bowl game.  Last year's affair between Minnesota and Kansas netted 63 total points.  In 2003, California and Virgina Tech topped 100 total points.

Most predictions say this year's matchup will be a low-scoring battle, the exact opposite of the 2003 game.  The offensive numbers seem to support that theory, too.

The Cyclones rank 102nd nationally in scoring, 97th nationally in passing and 74th nationally in total offense.

In comparison, the Gophers rank 112th nationally in rushing offense and 82nd nationally in passing.  They finished last in the Big Ten Conference in scoring, rushing and total offense, and failed to score a touchdown in their last two games.

No wonder there are rumors floating around online that Minnesota fans have only purchased 1,000 tickets for the game.  Gopher fans might be less than thrilled for their third trip to Tempe in four years to see their floundering team play an equally-struggling opponent.

Regardless, not all of the numbers are bad.   Both teams have plenty of potential to prove the low scoring predictions wrong.

Iowa State ranks a respectable 36th in rushing nationally and will be going up against a Minnesota team that's 64th in the nation in rushing defense.  Cyclone running back Alexander Robinson averaged almost 100 yards a game, and the Minneapolis-native will look to take full advantage of an opponent who gives up over 150 yards rushing a game.

Robinson rushed for 1,058 yards this season with six touchdowns, in addition to catching 15 passes for 241 yards and three more touchdowns.  His best effort was a 152 yard game against Kansas. 

Cyclone quarterback Austen Arnaud has been known to run the ball well, too.  He has rushed for almost 500 yards, picking up seven touchdowns.

If Robinson and Arnaud can find a way to get past Minnesota's great linebacker duo, Nate Triplett and Lee Campbell, Iowa State could gain the offensive advantage it needs to win the game.

It won't be easy, as Campbell has 112 tackles on the year, third most in the Big Ten.  Triplett has 95 tackles, seventh most in the Big Ten.  Fellow linebacker Simoni Lawrence has a his fair share of tackles, too, having racked up 77.

Minnesota also has some potential to score.  Even without senior standout wide receiver Eric Decker out with an ankle injury, the Golden Gophers have shown signs of life on offense. 

In a game against Michigan State, Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber put up 416 passing yards and five touchdowns for a whopping 220.79 rating.

"Unfortunately, he has not consistently played at the level he wants to play," offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said of Weber recently.   

If Weber can find some consistency against an Iowa State team that ranks 95th nationally in pass defense, Minnesota could put up some big numbers again.

Weber might be hungry enough to lead the team to a win, giving the rebuilding Minnesota team a huge vote of confidence heading into next year.

So don't be fooled.  It doesn't look like much on paper, but this year's Insight Bowl does have some hidden potential that could keep the high-scoring trend going.