For the first time since 2018, Syracuse Football will play in a bowl game tomorrow. SU is headed to Yankee Stadium to take on Minnesota in the Pinstripe Bowl. The last time the Orange and Golden Gophers clashed was also in a bowl game, back in the 2013 Texas Bowl. SU won that one 21-17. Nine years later the two meet again in postseason play. Here’s what this year’s Minnesota squad looks like.
Early in the season, it looked like Minnesota might have New Year’s Six in their future. The Golden Gophers started the season 4-0 and didn’t have Ohio State or Michigan on the schedule. But three straight losses to Purdue (transitive property anyone?), Illinois, and Penn State squashed that. But a 4-1 finish propelled Minnesota to an 8-4 record at season’s end. Not too shabby.
HEAD COACH PJ FLECK
Ever since Fleck took over in Minneapolis, the Golden Gophers have been quite consistent in the Big Ten. After going 5-7 in his first year, the Illinois native has led Minnesota to four bowl games in five years, with the one exception being the COVID 2020 season. Fleck coached at Western Michigan for four years before leaving for Minnesota, and led the Broncos to the Cotton Bowl in the 2016 season. Yes, Western Michigan in the Cotton Bowl. That certainly says a lot.
QBs TANNER MORGAN AND ATHAN KALIAKMANIS
Fleck said in a press conference earlier today that Morgan, who started at the start of the season, is good to go tomorrow. But the Kentucky native has been out with an upper-body injury since November 5 and didn’t light the world on fire in eight games (only topped 250 passing yards three times). Enter Kaliakmanis, who also hasn’t been a world-beater, but did have 319 yards through the air in the regular season finale against Wisconsin. We don’t know who will start yet, but it won’t impact Minnesota’s gameplan a lot…
RB MOHAMED IBRAHIM
…because Ibrahim is playing and he is a menace. The Baltimore native had at least 100 yards rushing in 10 of his 11 games this season while also topping 200 twice. Ibrahim has also found the end zone 19 times this season, with six multi-score games this year. The SU run defense was shredded repeatedly throughout the back half of the season, Ibrahim may be the most talented back it has faced yet.
DL DANNY STRIGGOW
Striggow is a homegrown player that has blossomed into one of the best players on Fleck’s roster. After mainly seeing special teams time last year, the Long Lake, Minnesota native leads the Golden Gophers with 3.5 sacks and is tied for the team lead in tackles for loss. He also has an interception and a pass breakup. As a defensive lineman. SU’s run game was already going to have a different look without Sean Tucker, Striggow makes life even more difficult.
DB TYLER NUBIN
Nubin was just named to this year’s All-Big Ten second team, and the stats show why. The Illinois native has racked up a team-leading four interceptions, three pass breakups, and 55 tackles (third on the team). He did miss the season finale due to injury, so it’s worth wondering if he’ll be at full strength (assuming he plays). But if he does, Garrett Shrader, look out.
It’s been a tumultuous back half of the season, but this is what we wanted. A bowl game against a fairly solid opponent. Let’s have fun.