Virginia disappoints as Gophers bowl match

Virginia is 6-5 this season and finished tied for eighth in the ACC.

Matt Anderson

Drew Olson vs. Laurence Maroney: It was a potential bowl matchup that held such promise and looked realistic.

The Division I seventh-ranked scoring offense against the second-ranked rushing offense in America.

A UCLA-Minnesota Sun Bowl seemed like it was a virtual-lock to take place less than two weeks ago.

What do the Gophers have now in terms of an attractive bowl game? Well, how do Marques Hagans, Wali Lundy and about 30,000 empty seats sound?

Granted, Virginia boasts offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson. But first-round talent at tackle and a first-rate name only bring so much to the table in terms of making a game watchable.

As a program, Virginia is like the change between the cushions of a couch: It’s always there, but unless you look, you wouldn’t really see it.

On Dec. 30, Minnesota searches for the change in the couch. You probably won’t be hearing that line in ESPN promotions for the Music City Bowl.

But, it would be telling the truth. There’s no pizzazz to Virginia ” especially this year.

There’s no Heath Miller lining up at tight end. Tiki Barber isn’t taking handoffs. A player the level of Matt Schaub isn’t leading Cavaliers’ offense.

This was a thoroughly unremarkable season in Charlottesville, Va., even considering the fact that the season included wins over Florida State and Georgia Tech. The record for coach Al Groh’s crew still read 6-5 at the end of the day.

It’s a season somewhat parallel to Minnesota’s. Despite big Gophers wins against Purdue (at the time) and Michigan, the line at the end of the season read 7-4 overall, 4-4 in the Big Ten.

Although maybe the two teams deserve each other, the lack of an incredibly intriguing opponent in the Music City Bowl for Minnesota is also caused, in part, by circumstance.

The Music City Bowl has a tie-in to the Southeastern Conference, a conference similar to the Big Ten in its depth and quality at the top. The Atlantic Coast Conference, while it has its share of decent teams, isn’t of the SEC’s caliber.

A 6-5 team that finished tied for eighth in a less-than-mighty conference doesn’t do much to set hearts aflutter dreaming about the Music City Bowl.

And it’s not as if the setting for the bowl game is going to make for a memorable experience.

Last year when Minnesota played in the Music City Bowl, the attendance was announced as a near-capacity 66,089. But that was against Alabama, a program that traditionally travels well and hadn’t been to a bowl game in two years because of probation.

An attendance of 39,183 ” what the game drew when the Gophers played Arkansas in the 2002 Music City Bowl ” is probably close to where it will be this year.

The Music City Bowl is a middle-of-the-road bowl game. The Cavaliers are an entirely mediocre football team.

In other words, it’s a perfect fit for Minnesota.

” Matt Anderson welcomes comments at [email protected]