Joe Christensen covered Major League Baseball for 15 years, including three seasons at the Baltimore Sun and eight at the Star Tribune, before switching to the college football beat. He’s a Faribault, Minn., native who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He covered Jim Wacker’s Gophers for the Minnesota Daily and also wrote about USC, UCLA and the Rose Bowl for the Riverside Press-Enterprise before getting this chance to cover football again.
Email Joe to talk about the Gophers.
ORLANDO, FLA. -- The Gophers held their first Florida practice today in preparation for the Citrus Bowl, and Star Tribune photographer Liz Flores and I made it just in time to see it. The team allowed photo and video access for the first 20 minutes, so we'll wrap some of that into tonight's coverage.
Some quick jottings off practice:
* Gophers coach Jerry Kill confirmed that running back Jeff Jones finished the fall semester with a high enough GPA (Jones needed a 2.5 or above) to gain eligibility for spring practice. Sid Hartman had this news in his Sunday column. The Gophers were just waiting for the grades to become official, and now that's a done deal.
* Drew Wolitarsky, who missed the last four games with a sprained ankle, looked very good running drills. Kill said Wolitarsky is good to go for the bowl game.
* Kill said offensive tackle Ben Lauer, who has been out with mono, would have a limited role, at the most, in the bowl game. That limits the Gophers depth. They have Josh Campion and Jonah Pirsig starting at tackle, and those two will have their hands full against Missouri's defensive ends.
* It was overcast at Freedom High School but a very comfortable 72 degrees. Temperatures are expected to be in the low 80's the next three days.
The Citrus Bowl Parade will run through downtown Orlando on Dec. 30, two days before the Gophers play Missouri, and Wednesday, the honored guests for the parade were revealed.
According to a Citrus Bowl spokesperson, the grand marshal will be former NBA All-Star Grant Hill. Minnesota’s VIP Guest will be Al-Star closer Glen Perkins, and Missouri’s VIP guest will be its chancellor, Dr. R. Bowen Loftin.
Perkins went 19-5 with a 2.87 ERA in two seasons for the Gophers before the Twins signed him as a first-round draft pick in 2004. The lefthander has posted 70 saves over the past two seasons for the Twins, making the All-Star team both years.
Last year’s Citrus Bowl pitted Wisconsin against South Carolina. The parade grand marshal was PGA veteran Justin Rose, and his “VIP guests” were both Heisman winners – George Rogers from South Carolina and Ron Dayne from Wisconsin.
The parade will feature the Gophers and Missouri marching bands, as well as various high school bands and citrus floats. For more on the parade, visit FloridaCitrusParade.com.
Note: Sun Country Airlines added five flights from Minneapolis to Orlando for the bowl game. Details here.
The Gophers will play in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1 in Orlando against Missouri, the Star Tribune has confirmed.
It’s the first time the Gophers have drawn a New Year’s Day bowl game since they defeated UCLA in the 1962 Rose Bowl.
Missouri (10-3) won the SEC East but lost 42-13 to Alabama in Saturday's SEC title game. The Tigers also lost to Indiana in September.
The Gophers (8-4, 5-3 Big Ten) appeared to catch a break Sunday, when Mississippi State jumped ahead of Michigan State in the final College Football Playoff rankings.
The Orange Bowl was under contract to take the highest ranked Big Ten or SEC team that didn’t make the four-team College Football Playoff. That would have been Michigan State based on last week’s rankings, but it wound up being Mississippi State.
If the Big Ten team had landed a team in the Orange Bowl, it wouldn’t have been able to send one to the Citrus Bowl.
Ohio State landed a berth in the four-team College Football Playoff. Michigan State got a bid to play Baylor in the Cotton Bowl. And with the Citrus Bowl back in play, the rest of the Big Ten benefited.
The Citrus Bowl was called the Capital One Bowl from 2003 to 2014. It actually dates to 1947, when it was known as the Tangerine Bowl before changing its name to the Florida Citrus Bowl.
The Gophers could be back in play for the Citrus Bowl, with the Outback Bowl and Holiday Bowl seeming to be the other top possibilities, with their bowl announcement coming later this afternoon.
The announcement is coming at 5:30 p.m., though word could leak earlier. We'll post all the latest news here.
The College Football Playoff selection committee did the whole Big Ten a favor by moving Mississippi State ahead of Michigan State in the final rankings, even though both teams had a bye this week. The Gophers wound up No. 25 in the final rankings.
Because of that Mississippi State (not Michigan State) is heading to the Orange Bowl. If Michigan State had drawn that assignment, the Big Ten would not have been able to send a team to the Citrus Bowl.
But Michigan State will play Baylor in the Cotton Bowl. Ohio State is headed to the College Football Playoff as the No. 4 seed.
The Citrus Bowl (Jan. 1 in Orlando) will get next dibs followed by the Outback Bowl and the Holiday Bowl. Even if the Citrus Bowl would prefer Wisconsin or Nebraska, the Big Ten could step in and make them take the Gophers.
Nebraska played in the Gator Bowl (Jacksonville, Fla.) last year and the Capital One Bowl (in Orlando) two years ago. Wisconsin played in the Capital One Bowl last year and was in Orlando five straight years between 2005-2009.
In his latest projections for CBSSports.com, Jerry Palm has the Gophers playing Missouri in the Citrus Bowl.
Gophers wide receiver Jamel Harbison indicated on Twitter on Wednesday night that he is transferring to Mars Hill University, a Division II-school in North Carolina.
Harbison, a Charlotte, N.C. native, seemed to have a promising career for the Gophers heading into the 2012 season, when he won a starting job as a true freshman during preseason camp. But he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during the first quarter of that season’s first game at UNLV.
Harbison showed more flashes of his potential last spring but had a minimal role this past season and missed time because of a disciplinary reason.
In two seasons, he did not catch a pass and had two rushing attempts for a combined zero yards.
On his Twitter account (@jamel_duce), Harbison wrote, “Football is life. Transfer from Minnesota to Mars Hill.”
In a post, he wrote he would “miss all my homeboys and the relationships that I've built on and off the field," adding, "good luck to the gophers next year.”
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