Gator Bowl Preview: Mississippi State vs. Michigan

It has been over 10 years since MIssissippi State played in a New Years Day bowl. Actually, its been 12 years exactly. It was the Cotton Bowl in 1999. I know that because it was the day before my wedding (I will make sure my wife notices that sentence). Mississippi State hasn't been to a bowl game at all since the 2007 Liberty Bowl against UCF in Memphis. You know, the game that Georgia couldn't quite pull out yesterday?

A side note to say that the SEC East should just sit back and watch how winning a bowl is done as the SEC West takes center stage today.

So today we find our Bulldogs up against another School Up North - Michigan. This will be the first time these two schools have met on the gridiron, although their head coach, Rich Rodriguez, is familiar with Mississippi State - he coached West Virginia to 2 victories over the Bulldogs - and the coaching staff - Dan Mullen, as part of Urban Meyer's staff, talked at great length with Rodriguez and his staff about the spread offense while he was at West Virginia.

The Bulldogs are coming off a banner season with second-year coach Dan Mullen. Mississippi State also recently announced a new contract for Mullen that more than doubles his salary over the next 4 years. The Bulldogs are ready to prove that they are a program on the rise.

Michigan is in its first bowl since 2007 as well. Rodriguez first three seasons in Ann Arbor have not gone as well as most Michigan fans would have hoped, only going 6-18 in Big Ten play and under .500 overall. Many say that this game is a must win for Rodriguez to keep his job.

This game will match two similar style offenses against each other. Michigan plays heavily on the running ability of Denard Robinson out of the spread, and Mullen uses Chris Relf to do the same. Mississippi State uses a little bit more of an option-look to get yards on the ground while MIchigan seems to favor screens and draws.

Defensively, Mississippi State seems to have the upper hand, if only slightly. They come in to the game as the 19-th ranked rushing defense, powered up front by Pernell McPhee, Josh Boyd and a host of others that bring depth to the defensive line. The linebacker corps is fast and strong, with Chris White and K.J. Wright bringing senior leadership to the entire squad. The one weak spot for Mississippi State on defense is probably the secondary. They ranked 90-th in pass defense this past year. Add to that Manny Diaz's love of the all out blitz and you are sure to see the Bulldogs give up some big plays in the air.

The Wolverines strength this year is definitely in their offense. They finished the season ranked 107 in total defense. Many expect Mullen to be able to pick apart their defense to put points on the board.

it seems like Michigan will basically have to outscore Mississippi State if they can't stop them from getting in the endzone.

We look for a high scoring game, and Mississippi State to come away with the win.

33-27

Go Dawgs!

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