HOUSTON -- If field goals come into play at the Meineke Car Care Bowl tonight, don't be surprised if someone sets a new career high. The roof is closed at Reliant Stadium, the brand-new artificial turf is bouncy and forgiving, and the field-goal kickers may be able to take advantage.
A 50-yard field goal is easily in play. I just watched Gophers senior Jordan Wettstein, whose career high is a 51-yard kick during the 2011 season, drill a 52-yarder with plenty to spare, so it wouldn't surprise me if Jerry Kill extended his normal range to consider a kick. Similarly, Texas Tech kicker Ryan Bustin has a 50-yard field goal this year, so he's got the range, too.
The Gophers were promised a warm-weather site when they accepted their bowl invitation. That may be the only thing the Meineke Car Care Bowl committee didn't deliver.
Minnesota's coaches and players have raved about how well they've been treated while in Houston, but the 80-degree weather ended on Christmas afternoon. It rained last night, and as kickoff approaches, it's 45 degrees and blustery outside, not ideal for the Gophers' tailgating party under way just outside the stadium.
None of that will affect the game, however, as the Reliant Stadium roof will be closed. The game will be the first collegiate game played on the new artificial turf inside the stadium; the NFL's Houston Texans play on a natural grass field, but it is removed and replaced with the artificial stuff for high school and college games. (The fake turf is, somewhat ironically, stored next door in the Astrodome -- the first pro-sports stadium to use artificial turf -- when it's not being used.)
The Gophers, hoping to break their four-bowl losing streak and finish with a winning record for the first time since 2008, are wearing maroon pants and white jerseys as they warm up, though a press-box rumor has it that they will switch to gold-on-gold for the game. UPDATE: Nope, it's white-on-maroon. Just a rumor, I guess.