TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl Pick – January 1st
This game might not get as much attention as most other games, but it has the potential to be one of the tightest games of the day. Mississippi State and Northwestern are two teams that have some weaknesses, but they both play fundamentally sound football. Let’s take a closer look at this interesting under the radar matchup.
Mississippi State’s overall numbers aren’t terribly impressive, but they did find a way to win eight games this season. The Bulldogs play in the very difficult SEC, but Dan Mullen has turned this team into a consistent winner. This is a program that was down in the dumps just a few short years ago. The Bulldogs actually started this season 7-0, but they lost four of their last five games. The most disappointing was their blowout loss at the hands of Ole Miss in the regular season finale. They’ll have to get their momentum going back in the right direction before this bowl game.
Mississippi State has one of the best play makers in the nation in Chad Bumphis. Bumphis averaged 16.4 yards per reception this year, and he caught 11 touchdown passes. Tyler Russell had a very solid season at the quarterback spot. He threw 22 touchdowns and only six interceptions on the year. He has a minor ankle injury, but he should play in this one. Defensively, Mississippi State has struggled against the run this season. Opponents gained 166 yards per game on the ground against this unit. They’ll get a major test from Northwestern’s ground game.
The Northwestern Wildcats are never ranked very high in the recruiting rankings, but they find a way to put together some very good seasons. The bottom line is: Pat Fitzgerald is one of the most underrated coaches in the business. The Wildcats went 9-3 this season, and here they are playing in another New Year’s bowl game. Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian share the duties under center for Northwestern. Both quarterbacks have done a nice job this year, and they have made great decisions with the football. Colter is a terrific running quarterback, while Siemian is the drop back passer.
Northwestern’s running game was so much better this year than it was last season largely because of Venric Mark and his success at the tailback spot. Mark averaged 6.2 yards per carry this year, and he is one of the very best kick returners in the country. The Wildcats defense has been very good against the run this year, but they struggle against strong passing attacks. The Big Ten was very weak this year, and Northwestern really hasn’t seen many strong quarterbacks. Mississippi State’s passing attack has been good all year, so Northwestern will get a test here.
Free Pick: Over 51.5
Both offenses should have success in this one. These defenses have some real weaknesses, and I think it will show up throughout this game. Look for a higher scoring game than most people believe.
Mississippi State 28 Northwestern 27