There’s no doubt that the Gophers face one of the toughest opponents of any team in the bowl games when they face Missouri in the Citrus Bowl on Thursday.

If a team like Missouri can play Alabama to a standstill for three quarters, you can bet they are pretty good. Alabama is No. 1, and Missouri is No. 16 and would be in the top 10 if it hadn’t lost to Indiana.

That loss to Indiana is the one thing that gives the Gophers strong hopes in this game. Missouri must have some weak spots. Indiana was one of the worst teams in the Big Ten this season, but the Hoosiers beat Missouri in the Tigers’ home stadium.

Emotion will be important for the Gophers.  They can’t afford to be flat, like they were in last year’s bowl loss to Syracuse. I’m sure Coach Jerry Kill and the players learned a lesson, and will be ready to play their best on New Year’s Day.

For the Gophers to beat Missouri, Mitch Leidner has to have one of his best days passing. Missouri has a very good defensive line, and it’s going to be difficult to win by running the ball only. The Gophers are still smarting from their last game, that Wisconsin loss, where they blew a 17-3 lead to a team that got beat 59-0 the next week by Ohio State in the Big Ten title game.

Winning this bowl game, in a nationally televised game, on New Year’s Day, would be another huge step for the Gophers. They would go into the offseason with a lot of optimism, and clearly would be a top 20 team entering next season.

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