(7-5, 3-9 ATS)
Mississippi State Bulldogs
(8-4, 6-6 ATS)
Never before has there been so much controversy surrounding a head coach in a bowl game. Head Coach Rich Rodriguez has a lot of pressure on his shoulders right now as he guides the Michigan Wolverines into NCAA football betting action at the Gator Bowl against the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Rich Rod really might need this game in order to keep his job, especially if some of the high profile coaches start swarming to take his spot in Ann Arbor. QB Tate Forcier has been declared academically ineligible for this game, which only leaves QB Denard Robinson with the ability to lead this offense. Now, we know that Robinson really was the heart and soul of this team all year long, but Forcier did appear in eight games this year and is the safety blanket for the Wolverines should anything happen or if Robinson is ineffective. Robinson proved to be the perfect man for this offense. He threw for 2,316 yards and rushed for 1,643 more, accounting for 30 total TDs on the campaign. The problem that Michigan has is that there aren’t really any other great options on either side of the ball. RB Vincent Smith is the leading rusher out of the backfield at just 588 yards, while WR Roy Roundtree is the leading receiver with 63 grabs, 882 yards, and six scores. This defense was one of the worst in the Big Ten this year as well, allowing 432.7 yards and 33.8 points per game.
The good news for Mississippi State is that it was really the last team to tame Auburn Tigers QB Cameron Newton, holding him to just 17 points at home earlier in the year. That bodes well for going up against Robinson, who is essentially cut from the same mold. Teams only averaged 111.8 yards per game against this team this year, ranking No. 15 in the country. On the other side of the ball, the ground game really got things going as well. The Dogs averaged almost double the yards in the running game that they are allowing thanks to the fact that QB Chris Relf and RBs Vick Ballard and LaDarius Perkins were fantastic on the year. Ballard had 905 yards and a whopping 17 TDs this year, while Perkins had 526 yards on just 92 carries. Relf threw for 1,495 yards and nine TDs this year, and he rushed for 671 yards. WR Chad Bumphis is probably not going to be in the lineup in the Gator Bowl with a collarbone injury, which doesn’t leave a single receiver on the team that caught more than 22 passes for more than 317 yards.
The Bulldogs only lost four games this year, with all four coming against the biggest four teams in the SEC West. Head Coach Dan Mullen is one of the better up and coming coaches in the country, and he has won games like this against the rest of the SEC all year long. Don’t be shocked if this one is a runaway in a hurry, as Michigan has a tendency of just falling apart when things start to go wrong.
Gator Bowl Pick: Mississippi State Bulldogs -4.5