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How the Red Raiders and Golden Gophers match up

Tech appears to have advantage on offense and defense

Posted: December 28, 2012 - 1:14am
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Minnesota running back Donnell Kirkwood (20) runs the ball into the end zone for a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Illinois Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012 in Champaign, Ill. Minnesota defeated Illinois 17-3. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)  Seth Perlman
Seth Perlman
Minnesota running back Donnell Kirkwood (20) runs the ball into the end zone for a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Illinois Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012 in Champaign, Ill. Minnesota defeated Illinois 17-3. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
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When Texas Tech runs

The trio of Kenny Williams (779 yards), Sadale Foster (440) and Eric Stephens (414) had a productive regular-season finale against Baylor, as Tech produced 208 rushing yards. They had a tough go of it in Big 12 Conference play, however, being held under 115 yards in seven of the first eight league games. Despite the best efforts of LBs Aaron Hill, Mike Rallis and Keanon Cooper, Minnesota’s 75th-ranked rushing defense sprung some leaks. The Golden Gophers gave up 266 rushing yards to Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell and 175 and 171 to Wisconsin’s James White and Montee Ball, respectively.

Advantage: Texas Tech.

When Texas Tech passes

Tech ranks No. 2 in pass offense, and Minnesota ranks No. 11 in pass defense. Tech pass protectors have to keep Golden Gophers DE D.L. Wilhite (8 ½ sacks) off of QB Seth Doege, whose 38 touchdown passes are the second most in the nation. Minnesota DBs Troy Stoudermire (78 tackles), Michael Carter (14 pass breakups) and Derrick Wells (9 PBU) helped hold six of the Gophers’ last eight opponents under 200 passing yards. But they didn’t see many receiving tandems in the Big Ten Conference as productive as Tech’s Darrin Moore (81 receptions, 948 yards, 13 touchdowns) and Eric Ward (75-974-11).

Advantage: Texas Tech.

When Minnesota runs

Minnesota’s the furthest thing from an offensive juggernaut at No. 111 in total offense and No. 97 in scoring offense. Sophomore RB Donnell Kirkwood has 849 rushing yards with three 100-yard games — two against Big Ten teams. He’s gone 18 games in a row (230 carries) without a fumble. MarQueis Gray, the Gophers’ 6-foot-5, 250-pound all-purpose player, is a running threat at QB if coaches decide to put him there. He ran for a team-leading 966 yards in 2011. Tech DT Kerry Hyder and DE Dartwan Bush could have their way against a Minnesota line that was young and injury-riddled this year.

Advantage: Texas Tech.

When Minnesota passes

Minnesota’s leading receiver, A.J. Barker, quit the team after eight games, leaving no one on the roster with at least 20 catches. Freshman QB Philip Nelson has six touchdown passes — none in his last three starts — and seven interceptions. Again, WR-QB MarQueis Gray (2,045 career passing yards, 766 career receiving yards) is a guy to keep an eye on. Tech’s secondary, with second-team all-Big 12 safeties Cody Davis and D.J. Johnson, should keep the Gophers in check.

Advantage: Texas Tech.

Special teams

Minnesota CB Troy Stoudermire, a senior from Dallas Skyline, needs 14 yards to break the NCAA record for career kickoff return yardage held by Houston’s Tyron Carrier (3,517 from 2008-11). Stoudermire got much of his 3,504 in 2008 and 2009; his longest this season is 48 yards. Tech freshman Jakeem Grant wowed everyone with a kickoff-return TD in the regular-season finale. Tech’s specialists, P Ryan Erxleben (42.1-yard average) and PK Ryan Bustin (15 for 21 FGs, long of 50), were better on paper than Minnesota P Christian Eldred (38.5 average) and PK Jordan Wettstein (13 of 21, long 48). However, Eldred put 21 punts inside the 20 and had 22 fair caught.

Advantage: Even.

How we see it

Staff writer Don Williams: Texas Tech 35, Minnesota 20.

Staff writer Nick Kosmider: Texas Tech 38, Minnesota 21.

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