Mississippi State’s bowl destination was announced on Sunday afternoon. It was decided that MSU would face off against the defending Heisman trophy winner, Lamar Jackson, and the Louisville Cardinals in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl on December 30 at 11 AM CT.
This matchup is not the best matchup the Bulldogs could have drawn. Mullen has taken a few of Mississippi State’s coaches with him to Florida. Originally, Mullen only hired Billy Gonzales (WR coach) and John Hevesy(O-line coach) at UF. Now, Mullen has just about filled the coaching staff up with hiring Todd Grantham as the new Florida defensive coordinator and offering Greg Knox, the interim head coach for the bowl game, a job at UF as well. So, with nearly the entire coaching staff headed off to Gainesville with the new Florida head coach, Dan Mullen, it will certainly be difficult to stop Lamar Jackson.
Now, for the Bulldogs to compete in this game a few things have to happen. First, the Dawgs have to dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. With the SEC talent they have on the offensive line, I see the Dawgs being able to run the ball against this sub-par defense from Louisville. Many Mississippi State fans connect the sub-par defense with their defensive coordinator, Peter Sirmon, who was hired at Louisville after a trade-off of defensive coordinators between State and Louisville.
Secondly, Mississippi State’s defense is going to have to contain Lamar Jackson somewhat. I know that you can never completely contain Jackson, but LSU sure did the best they could last year as LSU defeated Louisville 29-9 in the Citrus Bowl. LSU held Jackson to 33 yards on the ground with 0 TD’s. If MSU can come up with a game plan to stop him, they sure have a great chance to win the game.
Lastly, if MSU is to win this game, the story of the game will be how athletic Keytaon Thompson is. With Fitzgerald being out due to injury, Thompson has to step his game up as the starting QB in the Gator Bowl. Thompson will have to be a leader that day and use his athletic ability to the Dawg’s advantage. Thompson coughed up a couple fumbles in this year’s Egg Bowl, but if he can manage to hold on to the ball and make completions, this game could go his way.
It will certainly be a difficult matchup for Mississippi State, but they can win this game off of talent on both sides of the ball, not just the QB position.