Mississippi State and Northwestern will square off in the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl on January 1st. The Gator Bowl is one of three New Year’s Day bowl games to feature teams from the SEC and the Big Ten.
Mississippi State went 4-4 in SEC play thanks in part to a favorable schedule. The Bulldogs played Kentucky (0-8 in SEC) and Tennessee (1-7 SEC) from the SEC East and avoided Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. The Bulldogs head into the Gator Bowl with an overall record of 8-4. Northwestern went 5-3 in Big Ten play and have an overall record of 9-3.
When Northwestern is on Offense
Northwestern ranks 45th in scoring at 31.5 points per game. The Wildcats rely heavily on the run game and rank 15th in rushing yards per game (230.9) and 112th in passing yards per game (166.8). Running back Venric Mark averaged 6.2 yards per carry on his way to 1310 yards rushing this season. Quarterback Kain Coulter ran for 820 yards and 12 touchdowns. Colter along with Trevor Siemian both saw snaps at quarterback this season. Colter is a dual-threat quarterback with more rushing attempts than passing attempts and Siemian is more likely to stay in the pocket and throw.
The Bulldogs rank 28th in scoring defense allowing 22.4 points per game. Mississippi State only had 18 sacks this season but were able to pick off 16 passes. Bulldogs’ cornerback Johnthan Banks was the 2012 Jim Thorpe Award winner as the best defensive back in the country.
When Mississippi State is on Offense
Mississippi State ranks 56th in scoring at 30.3 points per game. Quarterback Tyler Russell completed 59.8% of his passes for 2791 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. Chad Bumphis was Russell’s favorite target this season hauling in 55 passes for 904 yards. Running back LaDarius Perkins averaged 5.1 yards per carry on his way to 940 yards rushing.
The Wildcats rank 31st in scoring defense allowing 22.8 points per game. They held their opponents to 14 points or less in 5 games this season. As a team, Northwestern had 25 sacks and 9 interceptions on the season.
2013 Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl Pick Against the Spread
Mississippi State is currently a 2-point favorite over Northwestern in the 2013 Gator Bowl. The teams are extremely close on paper. Northwestern scored 31.5 points per game and allowed 22.8 (+8.7) and Mississippi State scored 30.3 points per game and allowed 22.4 (+7.9). Northwestern’s Venric Mark and Kain Colter give them two explosive offensive weapons. Mark also was dangerous in the return game averaging 20.1 yards per return and taking 2 punts back for touchdowns. I’m taking Northwestern to win a close one against Mississippi State.
Prediction: Northwestern 24 – Mississippi State 21
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