If there is one thing we all know about this year’s edition of the Outback Bowl, it’s that it will not disappoint. Both Mississippi State and Iowa finished off the season at 8-4, each with a win over their arch-rival. Having said that, one team (Mississippi State) is in their first year with a new coach in Joe Moorhead, while the other (Iowa) has stuck with the same guy for years, Kirk Ferentz. But both have talent and enough to not be overlooked, as the Bulldogs and Hawkeyes are in for a wild ride.
While the maroon and white may not have had their best year, it was still a success, having beaten formidable teams like Auburn as well as their arch nemesis, Ole Miss. Though it was hard-earned, the Bulldogs have made a statement this season with a trip to this bowl. That said, Mississippi State should be favored given Ferentz’s 7-8 record in bowls. Iowa, whose second place finish in the Big Ten West was unexpected, does have a lot of fight, as the Bulldogs should be weary.
It will be bittersweet for Mississippi State. Seniors such as quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and running back Aeris Williams are moving on, as they have become household names. However, the Outback Bowl stage is the perfect place for Bulldogs’ underclassman to shine.
Look for sophomore running back Kylin Hill to have a monumental impact. Hill has 691 rushing yards on the year along with four touchdowns. In addition, he has proven to also be a reliable receiver, per his 19 receptions for 164 touchdowns. Hill is also averaging 6.6 yards per rush and 8.6 yards per catch.
The Hawkeyes have always flourished defensively. However, Moorhead is one of the game’s most clever offensive minds, sure to give Ferentz fits. Expect senior signal caller Nick Fitzgerald to also have a big day in the air and on the ground. Fitzgerald has worked wonders for the Bulldogs in an illustrious career. Moreover, he will be one of the top stories in this game.
Though it was a senior season full of ups and downs, Fitzgerald still posted staggering numbers, having gone over a thousand yards as a passer and rusher. Look for him to pick apart the Hawkeye defense apart with ease. This bowl will be a dogfight, but Fitzgerald’s talent is set to dictate the pace.
As for Iowa, it all starts with their star junior quarterback, Nate Stanley. Stanley, arguably the best in the West, has been nothing short of sensational. Though not a running quarterback like Fitzgerald, Stanley’s ability as a passer is unrivaled. His 2,638 yards are no joke, as Stanley will only get better.
But then there’s Mississippi State’s front seven. Let’s just say that Stanley will be in for a long day. Look for upperclassmen Montez Sweat, Jeffrey Simmons, and Gerri Green to go out on a high and have a day along the line. Also pay strong attention to sophomore phenom Erroll Thompson at linebacker.
All in all, Mississippi State should win this game. Look for the defense along with Hill and Fitzgerald to dictate this game and throw the kitchen sink at Iowa. It will be a statement win, one to remember for the seniors as well as a confidence boost for next season. A showdown is set to take place in Tampa, as the Bulldogs will be all business.