Missouri will meet Minnesota on New Year’s Day in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl. This is the first time that Minnesota will play a bowl game in January in Florida. The Gophers last played in a January bowl game in 1962 when they beat UCLA 21-3 on Jan. 1, in the Rose Bowl. Minnesota’s last bowl win was a 20-16 victory against Alabama in the 2004 Music City Bowl.
The Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl will feature two Coach of the Year honorees in Missouri’s Gary Pinkel and Minnesota’s Jerry Kill. Kill was named Big Ten Coach of the Year and Pinkel of course in the SEC after leading the Tigers to back to back SEC East titles.
The Gophers are 8-4 this year after finishing last season with an 8-5 record. Minnesota has now posted back-to-back eight win seasons for the first time since in 11 seasons. Minnesota ended the season ranked No. 25 in the College Football Playoff Rankings finishing fourth out of Big Ten teams. The Gophers were behind (No. 4 Ohio State, No. 8 Michigan State and No. 18 Wisconsin). Minnesota dropped three of its final five games but still has a chance to reach nine victories for the second time in 110 years. The program last accomplished that in 2003.
Minnesota will be shorthanded at wide receiver just like Missouri. Donovahn Jones was kicked off the team Sunday for violating a team rule. Jones was third on the team with 253 receiving yards despite making only 11 catches, two of which were touchdowns. The Tigers will be without Jimmie Hunt. He was second on the team with 40 receptions, 698 yards and seven touchdowns.
Learn more about Minnesota from the voice of the Golden Gophers, Mike Grimm.
Mizzou is making it to a New Year’s Day bowl game for the second-straight season, after their 10-3 season, including a 7-1 SEC record.
A win by the Tigers would break the school record for most wins in a two-year period. After its 12-win season a year ago, combined with the 10 wins so far, the current Tigers squad is tied with the 2007-2008 teams which also won 12 and 10 games. The Tigers (10-3) now have a chance to win at least 11 games in back-to-back seasons for the first time. Missouri has five seasons with 10 or more wins since coach Gary Pinkel’s arrival in 2001 after previously producing one such campaign, in 1960.
A victory would also make the 2014 team only the 4th in Mizzou history (124 seasons) to win at least 11 games. The others were 1960 (11), 2007 (12) and 2013 (12).
The Tigers turnaround season can come full circle in the state of Florida. After losses to Indiana and Georgia at The Zou in a span of three weeks, the Tigers were sitting at 4-2. They traveled to Florida where they dismantled the Gators 42-13 starting a run of six straight wins. Now, the Tigers look to come full circle on history in Florida on Jan. 1.
Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams leads the Gophers with 29 receptions for 471 yards, Williams accounted for 29.2 percent of the team’s receiving yards during the regular season. He scored seven of Minnesota’s 11 receiving touchdowns (63.6 percent). Williams also helped block for an offense that ran for 224.6 yards per game.
Defensively, Columbia, Missouri native Alex Keith started the first game of the season for the Gophers and had four tackles, recovered two fumbles, forced a fumble and had a sack against Eastern Illinois before leaving with a knee injury. He finished the season playing eight games, but that was his only start. Keith is healthy and becomes another distraction for the Missouri offense.