Guaranteed Rate Bowl
The 2021 Guaranteed Rate Bowl will be played on Tuesday night between West Virginia and Minnesota. The game will be played at Chase Field in Phoenix and airs on ESPN at 10:15 PM ET.
West Virginia went 6-6 in 2021 with a 4-5 record in Big 12 play. The Mountaineers lost to both Maryland and Texas Tech along the way but had some big wins against Iowa State, Texas, and Virginia Tech and competed until the very end with Oklahoma.
West Virginia has always been more of a defensive team since joining the Big 12. This season, the Mountaineers average 26.8 points per game on offense and give up an average of 24.3 points per game to opponents. Those numbers how that West Virginia isn't getting blown out very much, but they have to be near perfect to get wins.
Quarterback Jarret Doege has nearly 3,000 passing yards but throws way too many interceptions, especially for an offense that has 200 more rushing attempts than passing attempts. Senior running back Leddie Broiwn has been the leader of the offense with 1,065 yards and 13 touchdowns. When the ball is put in the air, Bryce Ford-Wheaton and Winston Wright Jr have been the main targets.
Minnesota had a nice bounce-back season after a tough 2020. The Gophers started the year by pushing Ohio State to edge in the season-opener and finished 8-4 overall in second place in the Big Ten West. Running back Mohamed Ibrahim was a star in that game against the Buckeyes but suffered a season-ending injury that forced Minnesota to adjust its offense.
The Gophers ended up leaning on the running game still with Ky Thomas, Mar'Keise Irving, and Trey Potts all eclipsing the 500-yard mark. Potts was, unfortunately, also lost for the season, but the ground game has 25 of the Gophers' 37 touchdowns. The passing game has struggled. QB Tanner Morgan has not progressed after his breakout 2019 season. Chris Autman-Bell has been the best receiver and will be selected in April's draft.
Minnesota struggles to score (just 26.3 points per game) and has had to rely on its defense most of the year. Luckily, that defense gives up just 18.3 points per game and less than 290 yards.
With the way these teams are built, it seems poised to be a defensive contest. Both quarterbacks are inconsistent when called upon and struggle with turnovers. Neither team takes a very aggressive offensive approach nor has a plethora of playmakers in the passing game. Whichever team gets the most out of its QB may be the winner here.