* Minnesota heads to the Texas Bowl for the second straight season, even though the team won two more games than it did in 2012 and some pundits expected the Golden Gophers to play in a more prominent bowl game. “You can’t control any of that. Our control is getting nine wins and winning a bowl game,” said coach Jerry Kill, whose team will play Syracuse on Dec. 27 at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Minnesota suffered a devastating loss to Texas Tech in last year’s Texas Bowl: it led 31-24 before the Red Raiders scored the tying touchdown with 1:10 left, then picked off Philip Nelson to set up the game-winning field goal at the buzzer.
* Syracuse will be playing a Big Ten opponent for the third time this year, after losing to Penn State and Northwestern by a combined 27 points. The Orange also faced a pair of Big Ten teams last year, including a 17-10 road loss to the Golden Gophers in which Syracuse did not score a touchdown until 46 seconds remained in the game.
* Kill personally has endured a tough season that included his latest seizure, which caused him to miss the Michigan game Oct. 5 and the Gophers’ ensuing four-game win streak as he continued his ongoing battle with epilepsy. He returned to coach from the booth for Minnesota’s final two games, losses to nationally-ranked Wisconsin and Michigan State.
ABOUT SYRACUSE: Following a two-game skid, the Orange secured bowl eligibility in dramatic fashion as Terrel Hunt found Josh Parris for the game-winning touchdown with six seconds left in a 34-31 win over Boston College. Hunt has thrown three touchdowns over the last two games after not throwing for any scores — while throwing seven interceptions — over the previous six contests. Hunt is known more for his legs, joining Jerome Smith (840 yards, 11 touchdowns) and Prince-Tyson Gulley (440 yards, four TDs) to give Syracuse a solid three-headed rushing attack.
ABOUT MINNESOTA: Minnesota uses two quarterbacks, Nelson and Mitch Leidner, and the duo has combined for more rushing touchdowns (13) than passing scores (10). David Cobb is the workhorse back for the Gophers, rushing for 1,111 yards and seven TDs, although he rushed for only two scores in Minnesota’s last eight games. The Gophers’ defense showed significant improvement late in the season, allowing 44 points over the last three games.
PREDICTION: Minnesota 31, Syracuse 16