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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Nashville? Vegas? Phoenix? A look at Gophers’ potential bowl destinations

Annexstad becomes second QB to transfer

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MINNEAPOLIS -- The University of Minnesota football team’s bowl projections are all across the board, which fittingly match the team’s results this season.

With Minnesota’s 23-13 victory over No. 14 Wisconsin last Saturday, the Gophers improved to 8-4 overall, 6-3 in Big Ten, and they must wait until conference championship games play out Saturday to see their next destination and opponent on Sunday.

The Gophers’ win over the Badgers seemed to eliminate the chance of them playing in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29 at Yankee Stadium, but Sports Illustrated still had them slotted to play in New York City against Miami.

Two more likely options for Minnesota are: the Music City Bowl vs. an SEC opponent in Nashville or the Las Vegas Bowl vs. a Pac-12 team. Both games will be played on Dec. 30.

CBS Sports and 247 Sports have the Gophers slated to face Tennessee in the Music City Bowl, while Athlon Sports and one ESPN pick have them headed to Vegas and facing either Arizona State or UCLA.

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The Athletic has Minnesota in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl against West Virginia at Chase Field in Phoenix on Dec. 28.

Another ESPN pick has Minnesota going to the Outback Bowl to face Arkansas on Jan. 1.

While educated guesses vary, Minnesota should be politicking for bowl spots over Big Ten West foes Wisconsin and Purdue. They finished with the same records in 2021, but the Gophers beat them both.

Annexstad to transfer

Backup quarterback Zack Annexstad announced Monday that he will enter the NCAA transfer portal.

Annexstad is the second quarterback to leave Minnesota since starter Tanner Morgan told the Pioneer Press on Saturday that he would return for a sixth season in 2022. Jacob Clark said Sunday he is on the way out.

Behind Morgan on the depth chart now is third-year backup Cole Kramer and freshman Athan Kaliakmanis, with Jacob Knuth coming in with the 2022 class.

Annexstad, a Mankato native who played at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., came in as a walk-on and earned a scholarship early in his Gophers career.

“The University of Minnesota has allowed a young Minnesota kid to live out his dream of playing in the maroon and gold,” Annexstad wrote on social media. “That is why this decision was anything but easy.”

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Annexstad beat out Morgan for the starting job in 2018 and played seven games before suffering injuries and missing the rest of the season. After Annexstad broke his foot to start the 2019 season, Morgan has continued to hold down the starting job ever since.

Annexstad completed 52% of his passes (97 for 187) with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2018. He played in two games in 2021.

Faalele to Senior Bowl

Fourth-year right tackle Daniel Faalele has accepted an invitation to practice and play the Senior Bowl on Feb. 5 in Mobile, Ala. Faalele’s size (6 feet 8, 380 pounds) and potential have intrigued NFL teams and his performance in this showcase will influence how high he might be picked.

Faalele is the fourth Gophers player under P.J. Fleck to be invited to the Senior Bowl, joining cornerback Benjamin St-Juste (2020), and linebackers Carter Coughlin and Kamal Martin (2019).

Walley honored

First-year cornerback Justin Walley was named Big Ten freshman of the week Monday after his career-high five tackles and pivotal interception against the Badgers.

Walley is the second Minnesota freshman to win the award, following running back Mar’Keise Irving after his 110-yard, two-touchdown game at Northwestern on Oct. 30.

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