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5 keys for Cougs vs. Gophers

WASHINGTON STATE will try to put together back-to-back 9-win seasons with a victory in today's Holiday Bowl over Minnesota (4pm, ESPN). Here's how the Cougs get it done.

1. Spread the secondary.
With its starting free safety out along with three of its top four cornerbacks, the Minnesota pass defense is thin.  Luke Falk needs to hammer them relentlessly.

2. Don't forget the running backs.
Minnesota has a stout rush defense but playing the Cougars will have no choice but to focus on pass defense – but that should also give Gerard Wicks, Jamal Morrow and James Williams a lot of space to work with.

3. Contain the running game.
Rodney Smith is one of the toughest players to tackle in football.  The Cougars need to contain, and wrap him up, every time he touches the ball.

4. Don't get burned on play-action or QB scrambles.
Minnesota's passing attack has been lousy this season, but Mitch Leidner is a good running QB.  He also knows how to run a play fake when teams stack the box.

5. Make the kicks (or avoid in the first place).
Minnesota's Emmit Carpenter has been nearly automatic this season.  A field goal contest on paper favors the Gophers.

•    Line: Washington State by 8 1/2 (Cougs opened as a 4 1/2-point favorite).
•    Kickoff: 4:00 pm/ESPN
•    Matt Moore’s Prediction: 38-24 Cougs

Check back with CF.C after the game for our wall-to-wall coverage and during the game for lively message board conversation.

The Golden Gophers average 186.4 yards on the ground and have 33 rushing touchdowns. Washington State is No. 3 in the Pac-12 and 28th nationally in run defense at 132.9 yards per game.

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