Peach Bowl sets table for Minnesota-Alabama showdown

Dan Miller

It looks very likely that Minnesota’s football team will play Alabama in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 31 in Nashville, Tenn.

The Peach Bowl committee voted Tuesday to take Florida over Alabama, assuming that Florida will be available.

If this scenario plays out, the Music City Bowl would invite Alabama (6-5) as the Southeastern Conference representative to play Minnesota (6-5) in Nashville.

The Peach Bowl decided it wanted No. 20 Florida (7-4) because of its stronger finish and national ranking.

This scenario could be thrown askew if undefeated Auburn loses in the SEC Championship game against Tennessee. Then, Auburn might not make a Bowl Championship Series game, in which case the SEC must use another one of its bowl tie-ins.

Minnesota coach Glen Mason said Sunday that he thought Alabama would be a big challenge for Minnesota.

“They have one of the most storied histories in all of football,” Mason said. “You’ve heard many people say football is a religion in the state of Alabama. But others say, ‘No, you’re wrong; it’s more than that.’ And that might be.”

He said there might be changes in some of the Gophers’ schemes before the game, but he didn’t give any specifics.

Money matters

Athletics Director Joel Maturi said he will ensure the University doesn’t lose money with its bowl payout.

Minnesota will be paid $780,000 from the Music City Bowl. This is substantially less than when the Gophers were paid $1.15 million a year ago when they went to the Sun Bowl.

“It’s enough of a difference that you can do things a bit more generously when you go to a higher bowl,” Maturi said.

Maturi said the money will first be used for transportation of personnel and equipment.

Fan support

Music City Bowl Executive Director Scott Ramsey said he will work closely with Maturi and the Gophers to increase the number of Minnesota fans traveling to the bowl.

Approximately 2,000 fans attended in 2002. Ramsey said he hopes to see a higher number.

“I talked to (Maturi), and he said most of the people that came last time had a good time and will return,” he said. “We hope they bring some friends.”

Ramsey said the bowl has also worked to get more of a local fan base. He said he calls these his “season-ticket holders.”

“We’ve done a good job in the past two years working on marketing to our local base,” he said.