Gator Bowl Preview - Mississippi State vs. Northwestern

Rich Barnes-US PRESSWIRE

Giving you a preview of tomorrow's 2013 Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl between the Mississippi State Bulldogs and the Northwestern Wildcats.

The void between the end of college football's regular season and bowl season can sometimes be mind numbingly long. If it wasn't for bad basketball being played by your team, you might even forget that a bowl game was coming. But nevertheless, it does come, and is within 24 hours of arriving for Mississippi State and Northwestern. As a great deal of time has passed since we last played, let us get you caught up with all of the information on tomorrow's Gator Bowl game between State and the Wildcats.

Who

Mississippi State Bulldogs (8-4, 4-4 SEC) vs. No. 20 Northwestern Wildcats (9-3,5-3 B1G)

11:00 a.m. CT kickoff

While Mississippi State comes in off of a season finish to forget, Northwestern comes in disappointed to not be in a better bowl, and off of an impressive 9-3 season. State is looking to get to 9 wins for the fourth time in our history, while Northwestern is seeking a 10-win season for just the third time in their history.

Where

Jacksonville, Florida - EverBank Field

Home of the Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL regularly, Everbank Field, with its capacity of 67,164, has hosted the Gator Bowl since 1996, and has also hosted the Florida/Georgia rivalry game, the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party", since it opened as Jacksonville Municipal Stadium in 1995.

Expected Weather

Sunny and partly cloudy, around 61 degrees at kickoff, with a high of 70 for the day. Humidity at 78%, and a very low (10%) chance of rain.

Spread

As of this morning, Northwestern is favored by 1 point.

TV Information

The game will be televised on ESPN2 (Channel #: 209 DirecTV, 606 AT&T U-Verse, 404 Comcast) and the commentary team is as follows: Play-by-Play: Bob Wischusen; Color Analyst: Danny Kanell; Sideline: Allison Williams.

What Will They Wear

It looks like State will be wearing their 'Snow Bowl' unis, while the Wildcats of Northwestern are rumored to be wearing all black.

Links and Notes

Points of Interest

  • With Rutgers loss in this year's Russell Athletic Bowl, MSU, with a win over Northwestern tomorrow, would hold the nation's longest bowl winning streak at six games.
  • Northwestern is 1-9 in their bowl history all time, but should they be 0-10? We investigated, kinda.
  • Alumni of note for Northwestern: Jerry Springer, Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus | attended, didn't actually graduate, not important), Charlton Heston, Warren Beatty, Mike Greenberg, Ross (David Schwimmer), Stephen Cobert, and many more.
  • With a bowl win tomorrow, Dan Mullen will become the first coach in Mississippi State football history to win three bowl games.

Players to Watch

MSU

Tyler Russell - QB - 2,791 yards passing, 22 touchdowns, 59.8% completion percentage. Broke nearly if not all of MSU's single season passing records this year. Will get a chance to go up against the nation's 101st-ranked passing defense Tuesday.

Chad Bumphis - WR - 904 yards receiving, 12 touchdowns. Bumphis is truly ending his career at State with a bang, finishing with his best season yet in maroon and white. Despite being 6 receptions short of MSU's career record and 96 yards short of a 1,000 yard season, I'd be willing to bet that he'd trade those to go out with a win. With Northwestern's issues defending the pass, Chad may get his chance to help State attain a New Year's Day bowl win.

Cam Lawrence - LB - 111 total tackles, 10 TFL, 4 sacks, 2 INTs. The do it all Senior will look to go out with a bang much like Chad will, and he will get his chance to make a huge impact in his final game like Chad as well. Lawrence and the rest of the front seven will look to stop a great rushing attack, something that the unit has struggled with this season.

Northwestern

Venric Mark - RB - 1,356 yards rushing, 11 touchdowns, 2 return TDs. Any good running attach usually has a star running back to lead it, and Venric Mark is it. Led the team in rushing this season.

Kain Colter - QB - 820 yards rushing (920 gained, 100 lost), 796 yards passing, 20 total TDs (12 rush, 8 pass). Despite being the starter, Colter will most likely share snaps with Trevor Siemian under center. But as the rushing attack goes, Colter is the more deadly, gaining nearly 1,000 yards to go with Mark's 1,300 on the season.

Chi Chi Ariguzo - LB - 86 total tackles, 10.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 INT. Not just a cool name, Ariguzo was an integral part of the Northwestern defense in 2012. State will try it's best to keep Chi Chi out of the backfield and away from Tyler Russell.

Keys

MSU

Defending against the run

It has been documented well and by many that State has struggled in defending against the running game this season. In their four losses this year, State gave up 223 yards per game on the ground, good (or bad) enough for 116th in the NCAA. The height of the struggle came against the Texas A&M Aggies, as the Ags, led by eventual Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, rolled up 361 yards on the ground utilizing the spread offense that allowed Manziel to shine. Northwestern uses a run-based spread option attack as well, and although the aerial portion of that attack isn't as potent as the Aggies was, their run offense is still something to be concerned with. The Wildcats averaged 230 yards per game on the ground in 2012, good enough for 15th in the FBS. That certainly poses a concern for State. If the Bulldogs are going to have a chance to extend their nation leading (tied with Rutgers currently) bowl winning streak to 6 games, then Chris Wilson's defense will have to find a way to contain Kain Colter and the rushing attack in purple.

Consistency

Consistency has been an issue as well in State's 2012 season. Good starts, bad finishes, unfinished drives, and letting games get away from them have all been issues the Bulldogs have faced this season. In November's Egg Bowl, State played well, going blow for blow with the enthused Rebels. But the second half was a disaster for State, as Dontae Moncrief and the Rebel offense ran over State's defense, reeling off 24 straight points while the offense for State continued to sputter, fail to convert, and generally lose any and all momentum they had in a successful first half. The Bulldogs will need a consistent effort on both sides of the ball for both sides of the halftime break to add a second Gator Bowl win in three seasons.

Finishing Drives

This point really is covered somewhat above, but bares repeating here as well. Against Alabama, State didn't necessarily have issues manufacturing offense and sustaining drives. What State struggled with was finishing; scoring the touchdown, instead of just being happy to be there. Executing is important, and executing is what Tyler Russell are going to have to do Tuesday. Finish, score touchdowns, and find a way in the endzone, and a way to avoid turnovers, stalled drives, penalties, and other mistakes that costs the Bulldogs points and thus wins this year.

Northwestern

Run, run, run

It's simple for Northwestern. They are good at running the football, and State has not been good at defending it this year. At 230 yards a game on the ground compared to 166 a game through the air, it's safe to say that running the ball is the lifeblood of the purple people. Run the football successfully, and Northwestern is in the game when the fourth quarter winds down. It's that simple for them. Do what you do best, and for Northwestern, it's going Forrest Gump style down the field.

Defending MSU's air attack

I wouldn't say that State was a polar opposite of Northwestern this past season, because the Bulldogs did feature a decent ground game. But it's safe to say that State was more reliant on throwing the football this season, and thus brings us to our key for NU. As MSU must stop Northwestern's running game to be in the game Tuesday, Northwestern must do the same with State's air attack. And that's something they have not done well this year, giving up a Big Ten - worst 262 yards a game through the air. A QB-WR set that has broken all kinds of school records this season await the Northwestern secondary. Can they fare better against State than other passing attacks? If Northwestern wants to break its bowl losing streak, they sure better hope so.

FWtCT Score Predictions

Our staff gives its predictions for tomorrow's game:

tbradenbishop

38-21, MSU - Despite the final month of the season, State finishes on a much-needed good note. Dan now moves on to the recruiting front.

WinstonCounty'sFinest

34-20 Dawgs - Because I still find it hard to believe that the Big 10 will beat an SEC team. Even during the struggle. It's science. I read it... In a book

Metal Building Dawg

31-28 State - I think it will be high scoring because Northwestern's pass defense has struggled...against B1G teams, Russell and Co. should do well. I'm not going to hold my breath with State's defense; if we give up 30+ and lose, it might be hard to justify keeping Wilson.

robnoladog

52-48 State - Hey, the rest of the country needs a reason to watch.

Justin Sutton

Northwestern 31 MSU 24: Dual threat quarterbacks have killed us. The spread has killed us. Northwestern will use those to win.

JLgrindin

31-28 Northwestern. Dawgs have struggled against spread teams this year. No Nick Griffin. Don't think State bounces back from Egg bowl loss.

thecristilmethod

MSU 35, Northwestern 31. In the battle of who can exploit the others weakness on defense more, I think State prevails. With Chad Bumphis playing his last game as a Bulldog, I expect he and Russell to hook up early and often and lead State to a win, albeit a very close one.

That's it for our preview folks. Make sure to go back and read up on everything we've written so far on the game right there on your right in our storystream. Other than that, let us know what your expectations are for tomorrow's game, and we'll see you right here at 11 to chat about the game!

Hail State

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