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2013 AutoZone Liberty Bowl, MSU vs. Rice: The Big Preview

Finally, the bowl game is here! It's time for the SEC vs. Conference USA. For Dan Mullen versus David Bailiff. Bully versus food. So can MSU overcome the long layover and maintain momentum continued in Thanksgiving's Egg Bowl win? It's the Bulldogs battling hunger and the Rice Owls in the 2013 AutoZone Liberty Bowl. This is Mississippi State vs. Rice: The Big Preview.

Rice Banner

It's bowl week here at The Big Preview, and we're trying to distract ourselves from our Christmas presents long enough to get psyched up for the Bulldogs' fourth straight bowl game. The Bulldogs are headed back to do a little walkin' in Memphis for the first time since 2007. So will it work out as well for MSU this time as it did six years ago? State fans certainly hope so. The Liberty Bowl will probably be painted in maroon yet again, and State fans will be looking to Dak Prescott and that defense to bring home a third bowl win in the the series of four straight bowl games. It's MSU versus Rice in the Liberty Bowl, and this is its Big Preview.

Click any of the four links below to scroll directly to the section that you're looking for (each section also features a button at the end to take you back to the top of the page):

Game Preview -- Mississippi State vs. Rice by justinrsutton
By the Numbers: Rice by Prediction? Pain
Totally Serious Opponent Report by James Carskadon
Braden's Gameday Domination - Memphis Edition by tbradenbishop
2007 Liberty Bowl Memories by cristilmethod
NCAA Simulation: 2013 Liberty Bowl by cristilmethod

Game Preview - Rice

by justinrsutton

MSU vs. Rice - Sidebar

The Mississippi State Bulldogs and Rice Owls will square off for the first time on the gridiron New Years Eve in Memphis in the Autozone Liberty Bowl. The Owls qualified for the game by knocking off Marshall in the Conference USA championship while Mississippi State qualified by going 6-6.

In the Owls, the Bulldogs will face an opponent that likes to run the football to pick up yardage. The Rice rushing attack averaged 240 yards per game, good for the 16th best such attack in the country. Charles Ross led the rushing attack for Rice, picking up 1252 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground and averaging 6.2 yards a carry. The quarterback, Taylor McHargue, can also be a threat on the ground, rushing for 466 yards and five scores. Through the air, he picked up 2261 yards and 17 touchdowns. Jordan Taylor and Dennis Parks both picked up yards in bunches on the receiving end of passes, earning 15.7 and 18.1 yards per catch respectively. Taylor also hauled in eight touchdown receptions.

For the Bulldogs, the first order of business will be to control the line of scrimmage. If the defensive line can create problems for the Rice rushing attack, it could turn into a long day at the office for the Owls. On the flip side, should the Owls be able to keep their running attack viable, Mississippi State will feel the pressure of an offense that averaged 31.4 points per game.

Defensively, Rice gave up 155 yards a game on the ground and proved to be very solid against the pass, ranking 13th in the country by giving up 195 yards a contest. Rice also gave up 22.9 points per game, good for 32nd in the country.

For Mississippi State to be successful on the offensive side of the football, the Bulldogs need to dominate in the running game and make their passes count when the opportunity presents itself. If the Bulldogs cannot run in this contest, they will face considerable pressure to move the ball through the air.

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Nickoe Whitley Egg Bowl

Photo by Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

By the Numbers Preview - Rice

by Prediction? Pain

There's no way to get around it: Rice's numbers are gaudy. It's the 18th best school in the country according to U.S. News and World Reports. Its engineering and natural-sciences research is ranked No. 1 in the world, and its general scientific publications come in ranked close behind at No. 6. Its computer-, chemical-, biomedical-, and mechincal-engineering graduate programs are all ranked in the Top 25. It boasts a ridiculous 6-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio, and admits only 17% of undergraduate applicants. Only the bottom quarter of its freshmen made below a 31 on their ACTs, and 82% of those students were in top 5% of their high school classes. And then there's the school's $4,840,000,000 endowment.

Simply put-damn.

Wait . . . bowl game . . . football numbers.

Ok; let's start again. All I've heard about Rice is that they run the ball-a lot-and that they won ten games. But what can more detailed stats tell us? Well, a few noteworthy things, it turns out.

First, here's Rice's offense in a numerical nutshell:

There’s no way to get around it: Rice’s numbers are gaudy. It’s the 18th best school in the country according to U.S. News and World Reports. Its engineering and natural-sciences research is ranked No. 1 in the world, and its general scientific publications come in ranked close behind at No. 6. Its computer-, chemical-, biomedical-, and mechincal-engineering graduate programs are all ranked in the Top 25. It boasts a ridiculous 6-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio, and admits only 17% of undergraduate applicants. Only the bottom quarter of its freshmen made below a 31 on their ACTs, and 82% of those students were in top 5% of their high school classes. And then there’s the school’s $4,840,000,000 endowment.

Simply put—damn.

Wait . . . bowl game . . . football numbers.

Ok; let’s start again. All I’ve heard about Rice is that they run the ball—a lot—and that they won ten games. But what can more detailed stats tell us? Well, a few noteworthy things, it turns out.

First, here’s Rice’s offense in a numerical nutshell:

Offensive category


Rushing Offense

Yards per game

16th (240.15)

Yards per carry

44th (4.68)

Passing Offense

Yards per game

103st (185.4)

Yards per attempt

54th (7.3)

Team passing efficiency

114th (51.1%)

Total Offense

49th (425.6)

Scoring Offense

51st (31.4)

Sacks Allowed (per game)

98th (2.54)

Tackles for Loss Allowed (per game)

92nd (6.62)

3rd Down Conversion %

61st (40.1%)


Fumbles lost

63rd (9)

Interceptions thrown

29th (9)

Red Zone TD %

7th (76.47%)

Big Plays

10+ yards

25th (204)

20+ yards

59th (57)

Rice high five

So yes, they run the ball a bunch. But aside from that, what a strange looking offense on paper. First of all, the passing game—yikes. With such few passes (and such a low efficiency rating), how are they even half-way decent at getting big plays? I mean, 4.68 yards per carry is solid (for a frame of reference, State is one spot behind Rice in ypc nationally), but for how much they run it and for the number of over-ten-yard plays they’ve had, you’d think it’d be more. And indeed, it probably should be—of the top twenty rushing offenses in the nation, Rice has the lowest average yards-per-carry. In fact, it is one of only two top twenty rushing teams that is not also in the top twenty in yards per carry (the other is Nebraska).

Further, with such a successful running game, how the hell do they manage to allow so many sacks and TFLs? Once again, it’s run-centric brethren don’t have the same problem—of the top twenty running offenses, Rice has the lowest sacks-allowed and TFL-allowed rankings. It’s kindred spirits like Army, Navy, Air Force, Arkansas, Auburn, and Georgia Tech are all in the top thirty nationally in either or both statistical categories.

Does this bewilderment continue with the Owls’ defense? Not really . . . .

Defensive category


Rushing Defense

Yards per game

55th (155.38)

Yards per carry

51st (4.05)

Passing Defense

Yards per game

13th (195.7)

Yards per attempt

38th (6.7)

Opponents’ passing efficiency

7th (50.1%)

Total Defense

24th (351.1)

Scoring Defense

32nd (22.9)

Sacks (per game)

101st (1.46)

Tackles for Loss (per game)

104th (5.08)

Opponent’s 3rd Down Conversion %

16th (33%)


Fumbles recovered

22nd (11)


38th (14)

Red Zone TD Defense

64th (60.5%)

Big Play Defense

10+ yards

18th (147)

20+ yards

43rd (51)

That’s a generally solid all-around unit, highlighted by good big-play defense, solid ball-hawking tendencies, and a freaking salty pass defense. And it’s not like C-USA is just a bad passing league. For example, only one of the fourteen teams in the conference had a team passing efficiency rating below 50%, and eight of the fourteen teams had one over 55%. So Rice’s gaudy passing efficiency defense isn’t due to a down year for C-USA QBs. It’s just good.

The sack and TFL numbers don’t seem to fit, but maybe they’re not really reflective of the D-line’s quality. Remember, for instance, that State’s national sack-per-game ranking is even worse (108th), and I think many fans finished the season fairly pleased with the front-seven. (Though to be fair, State’s TFL rank (68th) is quite a bit better than Rice’s.)

So what do these numbers tell me? That State just needs to play its game. Run the ball; force Rice to make plays in the passing game; let our D-line create negative plays; and take care of the ball.

Should be good stuff, Rice’s $4.8 billion nest-egg and army of research engineers notwithstanding.

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Totally Serious Opponent Report - Liberty Bowl Edition

by James Carskadon

So what is there to know about Rice? The average college football fan probably can't name a single person on their roster, despite the fact that they are C-USA champions. Their coach, David Bailiff, has spent nearly three decades coaching in the state of Texas. In my mind, everyone who is in Texas this long has a 'Texas Forever' banner in their office. However, outside of Texas, he still fits Rice's somewhat anonymous football image. If he approached me wearing a Rice hat and said, "Hi, I'm David," I would not have the slightest clue that he was the head football coach.

Such is life in a crowded Texas football marketplace. When the Southwest Conference disbanded in 1995, Rice was left out of what is now the Big 12 and relegated to the WAC (RIP #Waction). Their biggest rivals, SMU and Houston, faced similar problems. The BCS era that followed proved to be a boon to major conferences in both money and school exposure, but for those who were once members of a major conference, gaining relevance proved difficult. Rice tarped over some of its football stadium in 2006, reducing capacity from 70,000 to 47,000. Like most things in Texas, Rice Stadium peaked in the 60s and 70s. The stadium was one place where President John F. Kennedy challenged the United States to go to the moon in 1962. It also hosted the 1974 Super Bowl. Strangely, as irrelevant as Rice feels, 15 years ago their stadium held 30,000 more people than Mississippi State's own Davis-Wade Stadium.

The university itself was founded in cold blood. William Marsh Rice, a Texas businessman, left an endowment in his will to found the university in Houston after his death. However, in 1900, his lawyer in New York City had Rice's butler murder him in his sleep, and forged a fake will leaving his fortune to the lawyer. This scheme would later be revealed, and the lawyer was charged with murder in 1901, but he was pardoned in 1912. So the university was one scheme away from not having the endowment it needed to get started. Most of us may will not have giant fortunes to leave behind upon our death, but wouldn't it make sense to just go ahead and give the money while you're alive and see your college being built? It's what I would have done, but for whatever reason, Rice decide to wait and it almost cost Texas a private university. Now, 101 years later, the university has become a well-respected institution, and has a football team that's damn excited to go to the Liberty Bowl.

Rice University took a weird path to get to where it will be when the Owls run out of the tunnel in the Liberty Bowl. Murders, bygone eras, and some occasional proud moments. Turns out Rice is more than a grain school.

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TBraden's Gameday Domination (Memphis Ed.) - Blue Plate Cafe

by tbradenbishop

Blue Plate Cafe

Location: 5469 Popular Ave., Memphis, Tennessee 38119. (901.761.9696) *A second location is downtown but it grandeur the level the original carries.

Times: Open seven days a week from 6 a.m. - 2 p.m.


History: The charming yellow and white building that house BPC was built as a private residence in 1954. The home was built by Holiday Inn Founder, Kemmons Wilson. The first owner of the house was Reeves Hughes, Jr. and his wife Elisabeth. The home was considered the "way out to the country". At that time, Popular Ave. was only two lanes wide. Kemmons remember selling the house for approximately $11,000 to William and Rosetta Miner in 1965. BPC opened for business in May 1994 with the concept that folks love a good hot breakfast and southern homestyle cooking. Today, the restaurant is partnered with Debbie Richmond and her well-known artwork with animals and art featuring animals.

This place is your destination for the best pick-me-up in Memphis prior to eating Rice in the afternoon. OK, that was bad. But seriously, this joint will make you party New Year's Eve on Beale and stay overnight to eat here again.

First, BPC gives us some "Rules of Life". Here are a few according to their newspaper menu they distribute:
No. 1 - Wake up. Show up. Pay attention.
No. 4 - Get an education.
No. 7 - Know your weaknesses and overcome them.
No. 11 - Don't sweat the same stuff.
No. 13 - Acquire patience and serenity.

After becoming a better person at the table, you can trek through the menu and be a bad person as you devour stacks of flapjacks or outrageous omelets.

Must-eats: As mentioned, breakfast is served at any time. Pancakes, eggs, waffles, french toast, juices and fruit, and omelets headline their hottest sellers. Hot, light and fluffy pancakes, made from scratch, are served with creamy whipped butter and warm maple syrup. May we suggest knocking out the plain, jane old fashioned buttermilks. You can buy them in threes or fives. If you enjoy additions try the blueberry, butter pecan, banana, or swiss chocolate chip jacks. If carbcakes aren't your cup-o-tea, go directly to their omelets. Three eggs fluffed to perfection and mixed with hearty cheese or sausage or spinach, or bacon will bring you up to speed no matter how crazy you night before was. Probably the best news about the omelets are the sides: these babies are served with biscuits and sawmill gravy and your choice of homestyle hash browns, grits, or three (YES, THREE) buttermilk pancakes. Omelets are seriously your best bet. If breakfast ain't yo thang, lunch and dinner are served at 11 a.m.

Beware: Get there early. Parking is absolutely killer if you're super hungry. Just sayin'.

Eat, Ring, and Be Merry.

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Blue Plate Cafe

2007 Liberty Bowl Memories

with cristilmethod

Next Tuesday, Mississippi State will travel to Memphis for postseason play for the first time since the 2007 season. Circumstances surrounding the last trip and this one seem to be quite different, but State fans are excited to be bowling in Memphis nevertheless. As we prepare for this year's edition of the game, let's take a look back at what transpired six years ago when Sylvester Croom and Anthony Dixon went in front of thousands of MSU fans and beat a good Central Florida team to win the Liberty Bowl.

Like literally tens of thousands of MSU fans, I made my way to Memphis for the 2007 Liberty Bowl. It was our first bowl game in what seemed like forever, and there was plenty of excitement for us State fans in just getting to play in a game past Thanksgiving Day. We opted to drive up and back that day since the game was in the afternoon, and as we made our way up 78, we joined hundreds of other cars ringing cowbells, and donning all the magnetic maroon and white stickers they could find in their local MSU apparel store.

I remember how absolutely freaking cold it was that day, and how ill-prepared for the weather I was. Fortunately I was sitting somewhat close to the field (not-so-humble-brag?), and I was away from the upper parts of the stadium where the whippings winds were wreaking havoc on State fan's internal temperatures. I did not partake in such activities, but I do remember talking to a lot of people who kept warm with, ah, spirits, but even then just about everyone you talk to says that they were frozen solid by the end of the third quarter.

I remember being in awe of how many State fans made it that day. We had all heard the numbers of how many of us were expected to make the journey, but to actually see the numbers manifested in waves of maroon and white was a beautiful thing. And of course with cowbells being invited to the stadium with open arms, it might as well have been a home game for State.

I remember once the game started, it was -- to steal a quote from all of our grandfathers -- like watching paint dry, as both teams struggled to get any offense going, like a dog walking across ice. Looking back now at the box score, I remember how truly bad it was, with Wesley Carroll's 39 yards of passing, and one interception. Fortunately for the anemic MSU offense, State's defense was ridiculously good that year, and that stoutness showed up once again, as MSU held to just 219 yards of their own, and no touchdowns. State would punctuate its triumphant rise out of the gutter under Croom with a late Anthony Dixon touchdown, and all was right in our worlds yet again, as MSU had won an ugly, but yet beautiful, 10-3 game on New Year's Eve.

Looking back, that was one of the brighter days in an otherwise troubled time in MSU's football history. The only bad to really come out of that day, and that year, was that it built hope for the 2008 season: A season that would see itself become the pile of dynamite in a Wile E. Coyote cartoon in just the first game, as the ranked Bulldogs fell to Louisiana Tech in Ruston to open the 2008 season. Despite it being the fault for my optimism in the 2008 season, I'm thankful for the way that the 2007 season went, and how it finished. As fans of a program who had not sniffed the postseason since Y2K, we were just happy to be bowling at all, and that chance to bowl proved to be one with a happy ending.

It would take us a few years to return to postseason play, sure, but now we find ourselves playing past the turkey for the fourth straight season. As we head back to the Liberty Bowl this year for the first time in six years, we realize that even though it may not be where we wanted to be this bowl season, it's still far out in front of where we've come from, and where we had been going into that 2007 season.

I hope you all enjoy your time in Memphis this New Year's Eve, and here's to hoping for a similar outcome, but thankfully with less Russell uniforms, and hopefully with a bit more friggin' points this time.

Hail State

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NCAA Simulation: 2013 Liberty Bowl

by cristilmethod

In this year's final installment of the NCAA simulation series, I decided to make the game as factual as I could, simulating on 15 minute quarters, placing Dak at QB, and even playing the game at 3pm on a chilly day at the Liberty Bowl to ensure that all factors were as close to real game conditions as possible.

What transpired from that was a shootout, as MSU and Rice would account for 95 points, over 1200 yards of offense, and 58 first downs in a game that went back and forth, right up until the final drive.

Unfortunately for our digital Bulldogs in maroon and white, the outcome was unfavorable, as Rice prevailed 49-46, scoring a touchdown through the air with 38 second remaining to eek out the win.

As far as offensive stats go, Mississippi State was like a well-oiled machine, as Dak Prescott threw for 434 (!) yards on 53 attempts, with two touchdown passes to no interceptions. MSU was down a good bit early, which would explain why Dak threw as many passes as he did. The running game was paced by senior LaDarius Perkins, who registered 168 yards and four (!) touchdowns in his final game in maroon and white. Dak would chip in 53 yards as well. As for receiving, MSU was paced by -- of course -- Jameon Lewis, who had 119 yards and a touchdown. Joe Morrow also had a big game with 112 yards and a TD as well, and Perkins would add 85 yards receiving to go with his outstanding rushing performance in his final game in college.

Defensively, the only stat line of note was for Denico Autry, who racked up seven tackles for loss as part of a 17 tackle day. Otherwise, the defense -- as you can see from the offensive numbers -- was bad, not just for MSU, but for Rice as well.

MSU would jump out to an early 7-0 lead on an LDP TD, but Rice responded with 22 points of their own, and the Owls took a 22-14 lead into halftime. The third quarter was all Rice too, as the Owls added another 17 points to take a 39-21 lead into the fourth quarter. It looked like MSU was all but finished, but State reeled off 25 fourth quarter points to pull the game back close. Three LaDarius Perkins touchdowns in the fourth quarter put MSU back on top at 43-42. State would add a field goal with just under two minutes to go, and the lead was 46-42, as State looked to be headed for a Liberty Bowl win. But Rice was able to march down the field very Auburn-eque, and with just under 40 seconds left to play, they put the dagger in the heart of the maroon and white faithful, coming out victorious in a marathon sprint of a game.

Even though the simulation didn't produce the outcome State fans want to see next Tuesday, it did produce a fun, fast-paced game that I know many of us want to see. Well, we want to see it from our side of the ball, with maybe a little more defense against their side. Here's to hoping for plenty of fun and fireworks for this year's Liberty Bowl, with a slightly different outcome when things are all said any done.

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Josh Robinson

Photo by Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

  • Rice players high fiving in the endzone photo by Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports
  • Editing, style and layout by thecristilmethod