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Minnesota Loses OC — Advantage Auburn?

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The Gophers will be without their play-caller for the Outback Bowl.

Auburn may have gotten a late Christmas gift when Minnesota offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca left town to go run the offense in Happy Valley for Penn State. The news was announced today, and the early word is that Ciarrocca won’t be sticking around to help the Gophers in the Outback Bowl.

Minnesota finished the regular season ahead of Auburn in several offensive metrics, including the following:

  • SCORING OFFENSE: 34.3 ppg (23rd nationally)
  • PASSING OFFENSE: 251.2 ypg (51st nationally)
  • TOTAL OFFENSE: 426.8 ypg (50th nationally)
  • TEAM PASSING EFFICIENCY: 176.89 rating (6th nationally)

Quarterback Tanner Morgan was the 6th most efficient passer in the country, behind Tua, three Heisman finalists, and one spot ahead of Trevor Lawrence. He also set school records for single season passing yards and touchdowns in 2019. Minnesota’s offense hasn’t exactly been bad this year, and without Ciarrocca, it can only take a step back. Yes, the Gophers played a schedule consisting of hardly anyone, and the one good team they beat just stole their offensive coordinator. Still, P.J. Fleck will have this team ready to go for the bowl game against a big, bad SEC opponent.

As for the reaction from the Minnesota side, apparently Ciarrocca and Fleck had been coaching partners since Fleck’s Western Michigan tenure began in 2013. At the very least, the cohesion may suffer a bit with someone new calling plays and just a few days to prepare for the task.

With Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson — two high draft picks already — vocally espousing their desire to finish their Auburn careers on a high note in the bowl game, New Year’s Day was already going to be a slog for the Minnesota offense. It just got tougher today. It’s good news for Auburn for sure, as the Tigers look to win ten games for the second time in three seasons. Of course, we’d love if whoever gets to call plays next Wednesday didn’t want to treat this game like an audition for the full-time job, but we’ll probably get to see some early tricks from Minnesota either way.