Bowl season is upon us and now we know where the Mountaineers will spend their post-Christmas holiday season - out in the desert in Phoenix, Arizona playing the Minnesota Gophers. I know when I think of Phoenix, my first thought is some guy in a coonskin cap hunting burrowing animals.
The Name Sucks
Let’s get this out of the way, the whole name - Guaranteed Rate Bowl - is awful. Personally, I liked the Cactus Bowl name because saying Guaranteed Rates Bowl doesn’t roll off the tongue nor does it inspire an image of football. It does one job, it makes you say that awful name again and again and again and again. It is a mortgage lender. Good name for mortgages. Bad name for a bowl game. I’m sure a “Cactus Bowl Sponsored By Guaranteed Rate” would get shortened down to the Cactus Bowl and these companies don’t pay small fortunes that they can write off so you don’t even say their name.
The Trophy is Cool
That’s kinda cool to be honest. Gives it a little pizzazz and sets the trophy apart. Go back to when West Virginia won this game in 2015 and the trophy was generic and designed by that girl on TikTok who “makes logos better”. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just accept that you’re old and will now forever be old).
“Participation Trophy Bowl”
Grow up. I’ve seen some version of this comment online from fans for the past three weeks and honestly, just stop. We all know that there are, in a given season, maybe 10-12 teams who can win a national championship and that number dwindles fast with each loss and opponent loss. For the majority of teams, making a bowl game is the desire and it gives the kids a chance to get away for a few days, get some swag, get pampered and play an opponent they would normally not play in their lifetime. It gives them a chance to see and experience another part of the country with their teammates. The idea that because the bowl game isn’t part of the Playoffs or part of the New Years 6 means that it is meaningless loses the bigger context of football and sports and it simply makes you sound bitter. So stop. Support the team. Stop being an online hero who is going to rid the world of all the meaningless bowls. It isn’t happening.
Minnesota - Bad Matchup
I have not done a deep dive into Minnesota but a few things stuck out to me as I reviewed them. They are a top ten rush defense, allowing only 100 yards per game (last year they allowed 200 yards per game). They are a top 10 passing yard defense allowing only 184 yards per game. That does not seem like a good matchup for the Mountaineers, especially when you start to consider that the Mountaineers may be without Leddie Brown or Dante Stills. Neither has made an announcement but tea leave reading would lead people to believe they have played their last game as a Mountaineer.
Add into that Minnesota went 6-2 down their stretch and finished 8-4, while allowing only 18 points a game, this doesn’t point to a matchup that looks to be in WVU’s favor.
That last part is surprising since WVU has opened up as a 2-point favorite. Update: Minnesota opened as a 5.5 favorite.
For those of you who believe in transitive wins, Minnesota beat Maryland in the battle of the “M”s 34-16. Minnesota also has two senior defensive lineman - Thomas Rush and Nyles Pinckney who had 8 sacks combined.
On top of Minnesota just being a bad matchup, it sounds like Minnesota head coach PJ Fleck is going to hire West Virginia analyst Kirk Ciarrocca away to be his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Rocc will be available to coach the team in the bowl game.
Ciarrocca was Fleck’s offensive coordinator at Western Michigan for four seasons before following him to Minnesota, where Ciarrocca led the Gophers’ offense for three years. His tenure culminated in a record-breaking 2019 season that saw the Gophers record the program’s first 11-win season since 1904 thanks in large part to an offense that ranked 21st in the country in scoring offense, averaging 34.1 points per game.
Ciarrocca left at the end of 2019 to take the same position at Penn State, citing a desire to be closer to family in the Pennsylvania area. He was fired after one season in State College. The Nittany Lions started the season 0-5 before winning their final four games. They finished the year ranked 37th in total offense (430.3 yards per game) and 54th in scoring offense (29.8 points per game). Ciarrocca spent the 2021 season as an offensive analyst at West Virginia.
You can whine and moan about how Rocc shouldn’t be allowed to switch opponents before a bowl game and I would be right there with you. There is a lot in college football that never happens in any other profession. It is the beauty of it and the ignorance of it. Still, you have to imagine that Rocc is going to have some secrets to share for Minnesota. I don’t think you need too many since we know what West Virginia is - a team that wants to run the ball and play action and has a quarterback who if hit early is going to get spooked and make mistakes. They don’t need Ciarrocca to know that. I don’t think Kirk will be making many changes to the gameplan.
It will be interesting to see where and how the offensive gameplan for the Mountaineers evolves now. It has been evident to those in the know that Brown handed over play-calling duties to at least Gerad Parker with some sort of input from Kirk. Without Kirk’s input, will the play-calling duties be the sole responsibility of Parker, will he get another voice in his ear or will Brown tighten up and go back to inserting his voice in the playcalling?