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2009 Insight Bowl - Iowa State vs. Minnesota
Iowa State QB Austen Arnaud & UM QB Adam Weber
Iowa State QB Austen Arnaud & UM QB Adam Weber
Posted Dec 26, 2009

The CFN 2009 Insight Bowl Preview - Iowa State vs. Minnesota

2009 Insight Bowl

Iowa State (6-6) vs. Minnesota (6-6)

Tempe, AZ, De. 31, 6 pm, NFL Network

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Team Pages and 2009 Season
Iowa StateMinnesota 


- 2008 CFN Insight Bowl Preview
- 2007 CFN Insight Bowl Preview
- 2006 CFN Insight Bowl Preview
National Rankings
IS   M
75th Total Offense 113th
99th Total Defense 61st
102nd Scoring Offense 98th
43rd Scoring Defense 56th
36th Rushing Offense 112th
89th Run Defense 64th
97th Passing Offense 82nd
95th Passing Defense 60th
27th Turnover Margin 75th
Position Ratings
relative to each other
IS 5 highest
1 lowest
3.5 Quarterbacks 3.5
4 RBs 2
2 Receivers 3
4 O Line 1.5
2 D Line 3
3 Linebackers 4
2 Secondary 3
2.5 Spec Teams 5
4 Coaching 2.5
Insight Bowl History
2008 Kansas 42, Minnesota 21
2007 Oklahoma State 49, Indiana 33
2006 Texas Tech 44, Minn. 41 OT
2005 Arizona State 45, Rutgers 40
2004 Oregon St 38, Notre Dame 21
2003 California 52, Virginia Tech 49
2002 Pittsburgh 38, Oregon State 13
2001 Syracuse 26, Kansas State 3
2000 Iowa State 37, Pitt 29
1999 Colorado 62, Boston College 28
1998 Missouri 34, West Virginia 31
1997 Arizona 20, New Mexico 14
1996 Wisconsin 38, Utah 10
1995 Texas Tech 55, Air Force 41
1994 Brigham Young 31, Oklahoma 6
1993 Kansas State 52, Wyoming 17
1991 Indiana 24, Baylor 0
1990 California 17, Wyoming 15
1989 Arizona 17, NC State 10
This should be a regular non-conference matchup between two schools just a few hundred miles apart, but they’re traveling to a much nicer December climate to play a game that would generate plenty of excitement in the Midwest if it was played in September. As far as going with the cliché and looking at a bowl game as a tone-setter, this one could mean everything to the winner.

Paul Rhoads took over an Iowa State program that had won nine games in the previous three seasons and hadn’t been to a bowl game since a Houston Bowl loss to TCU in 2005. No matter what happens in Tempe, this has been a tremendous turnaround season for the Cyclone program and this signals a jumping off point for Rhoads.

For Minnesota, this is a must-win game to show that the team isn’t as bad as it looked over the second half of the last few seasons. Over the last three years, Minnesota is 0-9 in November against FBS teams, with the lone win coming this year in a 16-13 squeaker over South Dakota State. Throw into the mix a 42-21 loss to Kansas in last year’s Insight Bowl, and this is a program that hasn’t just limped to the finish line over the last few seasons; it has been dead and had to be rolled to a stop.

This will be the third time in four years that the Gophers will be playing in the Insight Bowl, with disastrous results the first two times. In 2006, one of the biggest chokes in college football history, a 44-41 overtime loss to Texas Tech, ended up costing Glen Mason his job and ushered in the start of the Tim Brewster era, and last year’s loss to the Jayhawks ended a once-promising season with a thud. But for the ever-optimistic Brewster, who will be on a hot seat next year if there isn’t more of an improvement, a win over the Cyclones can be spun into a mega-positive for the next eight months while a loss would make this a very testy offseason with a tremendous sense of urgency.

For the second straight season the Gophers started out well winning four of the first six games with the losses coming to Cal and in a missed comeback attempt in a 31-28 loss to Wisconsin. And then reality slapped the Gophers in the face, and hard, with back to back losses at Penn State and Ohio State by a combined score of 58-7, star receiver Eric Decker was lost for the year, and everything fell apart … sort of.

Minnesota went from being quirky and potentially dangerous to just plain weird. The running game was phenomenal is a crazy win over Michigan State, and then a miserable Illinois team came to TCF Bank Stadium and walked out with a win. It took a lot of luck and a defensive touchdown to get by South Dakota State before the annual whupping from Iowa, and now Brewster’s club will try to find something to positive in Tempe to define the season.

Iowa State had almost as strange a season as Minnesota, but it was interesting. There was the eight-takeaway performance against Nebraska to win 9-7, tough losses to both Kansas and Kansas State, a bowl clinching win over Baylor, and victories over North Dakota State, Kent State and Army to set the foundation for the needed six wins to get to a bowl. There’s no offensive scoring punch, the special teams are mediocre, and the defense gives up a ton of yards, but the team gives a strong effort game in and game out and isn’t going to come in flat. Looking for only the third bowl win in the school’s history, this is a really big deal. If the Gophers come in just as fired up, this might actually be an evenly-matched, entertaining bowl … even if it’s between two bad teams.

Players to Watch
: Depending on who has the hot hand, or legs, this game could lead to a very interesting offseason for the Gopher offense. Junior Adam Weber hasn’t much luck in his three years with no help around him as a freshman, losing Decker midway through each of the last two seasons, and getting flattened way too often behind a shaky line, but he hasn’t stepped up his game to make everyone around him better. Five of his 12 touchdown passes came in a flurry against Michigan State, and other than that shootout he has thrown just one scoring pass in the last seven games. No one has stepped up at receiver, but he hasn’t been accurate or consistent when he has had the chance. That’s why MarQueis Gray has seen more and more time. Originally recruited as a superstar spread prospect, he’s not the dropback, pro-style passer the offense needs. However, he’s being used more and more to add a spark with his running ability, and he could be the X factor to cross up the Cyclones a bit. If he plays well, he could make a bid for the starting job in 2010.

Looking to keep the Gray and the Minnesota running game under wraps is Jesse Smith, a tackling-machine who’s tenth in the nation with 128 stops with double-digit tackles in eight of his last nine games. The 6-0, 231-pound former walk-on has everything funneled his way, but he also gets to plays with a full-tilt motor and good instincts.

While Minnesota’s Lee Campbell wasn’t as consistent as Smith and his production tailed off over the second half of the season, he was one of the nation’s best linebackers for a stretch and is the best playmaker on the Gopher defense. The senior started out the season with 13 tackles, 11 solo, against Syracuse and made double-digit stops in six of the first eight games, but he wasn’t getting to the ball enough over the second half of the year and wasn’t making as many plays. Against Iowa State’s zone-blocking scheme, he has to be disciplined and he has to stay in his lane to be in a position to make a stop against the cutbacks.

Iowa State will win if ... : the run defense shows up. Duane Bennett is a decent back and Gray is a dangerous runner, but the Minnesota offensive line has been a problem. It’s a big front five, but it doesn’t generate much of a push in the middle and it won’t toss the Cyclone interior aside. The Gophers managed to run for 123 yards against Ohio State in a loss, but they were 6-0 in all the other games when they ran for more than 89 yards and 0-5 when they were under. 89 yards might not seem like a gaudy number to hit, that’s one drive for several decent running teams, but Minnesota loses a ton of net yards in sacks allowed and hasn’t cranked out a consistent running game all season long. Iowa State’s run defense is hardly a rock, and while it won’t be gouged, it’ll give up yards if the Gophers commit to the ground. They won’t commit to the ground, and the Cyclones must hold up in the secondary and must come up with a few picks to help out the mediocre offense.

Minnesota will win if ... : Weber is calm, relaxed, and gets into an early rhythm. The O line has been a nightmare at times giving up 39 sacks on the year, but Iowa State doesn’t generate any semblance of a pass rush and isn’t likely to change up the formula too much now. The Cyclone defense isn’t afraid to bring the pressure from several different spots and it has been creative at times, but it simply hasn’t been effective. Throw in the loss of top corner, Kennard Banks, after getting suspended, and the opportunities will be there for Weber. A bit gun-shy, and rightly so after being hit so much, he has been hurrying his throws and forcing things that aren’t there. He can’t do that against the Cyclones, but if he’s on, he’ll be the difference maker.

What will happen: Minnesota struggles way too much to score and has been way too inconsistent on both sides of the ball. The offense bogs down way too easily against teams with aggressive and active defensive fronts, and while Iowa State might not get into the backfield, it’s not going to allow too many, if any, big plays from the Gopher ground game. Cyclone RB Alexander Robinson and QB Austen Arnaud should combine for over 200 yards rushing against a Minnesota defensive front that can be pushed around, while the defense will come up with three key takeaways that lead to points. Rhoads will get his first bowl win and Iowa State will take a big step forward.

CFN Prediction: Iowa State 23 … Minnesota 20 ... Line: Minnesota -3

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Best Gopher Bowl Moment: It’s been quite some time since Minnesota reigned supreme in the Big Ten or played a game in Pasadena. Almost half a century, in fact. Behind the play of legendary quarterback Sandy Stephens and a terrific defensive effort, the Gophers beat UCLA 21-3 in the 1962 Rose Bowl to avenge a loss to Washington in Pasadena a year earlier.

Best Cyclone Bowl Moment: In nine mostly forgettable bowl appearances, Iowa State has won just a pair of games, the 2000 Insight Bowl and the 2004 Independence Bowl. That 2000 edition won nine games, jumping out to a big lead on the Panthers behind the running of Ennis Haywood, receiving of Chris Anthony, and passing of Sage Rosenfels.

Minnesota Bowl History (5-8)
2008 Insight Kansas 42, Minnesota 21
2006 Insight Texas Tech 44, Minnesota 41 OT
2005 Music City Virginia 34, Minnesota 31
2004 Music City Minnesota 20, Alabama 16
2003 Sun Minnesota 31, Oregon 30
2002 Music City Minnesota 29, Arkansas 14
2000 NC State 38, Minnesota 30
1999 Sun Oregon 24, Minnesota 20
1986 Liberty Tennessee 21, Minnesota 14
1985 Independence Minnesota 20, Clemson 13
1977 Hall Of Fame Maryland 17, Minnesota 7
1961 Rose Minnesota 21, UCLA 3
1960 Rose Washington 17, Minnesota 7
Iowa State Bowl History (2-7)
2005 Houston TCU 27, Iowa State 24
2004 Independ. Iowa St 17, Miami Univ. 13
2002 Humanitarian Boise St 34, Iowa State 16
2001 Independ. Alabama 14, Iowa State 13
2000 Iowa State 37, Pittsburgh 29
1978 Hall of Fame Texas A&M 28, Iowa St 12
1977 Peach NC State 24, Iowa State 14
1972 Liberty Ga Tech 31, Iowa State 30
1971 Sun LSU 33, Iowa State 15