The No. 7 Mississippi State Bulldogs (10-2, 7-5 ATS) will face off against the No. 12 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (10-3, 9-4 ATS) in the 2014 Capital One Orange Bowl. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:00 EST Wednesday, December 31 at Sun Life Stadium and will be televised on ESPN. Oddsmakers currently have the Bulldogs listed as a 7-point favorite with the total set at 61.5 points.
Mississippi State opened the season 9-0 before a heartbreaking 20-25 loss at Alabama on Nov. 15. The Bulldogs would later lose at in-state rival Ole Miss in the finale, ending any hope of making the 4-team playoff. Mississippi State ended up in 2nd place in the SEC West with a 6-2 conference mark. The Bulldogs have gone 3-1 in bowl games under head coach Dan Mullen, including last year’s 44-7 blowout win over Rice as a 7-point favorite in the Liberty Bowl.
Georgia Tech was one of the big surprises in college football this year. The Yellow Jackets weren’t expected to be a threat in the ACC Coastal with just 10 starters back from a team that went just 7-6 in 2013, but Georgia Tech went on to win the Coastal with a 6-2 mark and nearly pulled off a huge upset in their 35-37 loss to Florida State in the ACC Championship Game. The Yellow Jackets are just 1-5 in bowl games under head coach Paul Johnson with the only win coming in their 21-7 victory over USC in the 2012 Sun Bowl.
Early Free NCAAF Pick: Mississippi State -7
I know there are going to be those that argue that Mississippi State won’t be motivated for their bowl game against Georgia Tech after coming so close to making the 4-team playoff, but I don’t believe that will be the case at all. The Bulldogs have a chance to finish with a school-record 11 wins and show everyone that they are one of the elite teams in the country. Had this team came into the year projected to make the playoffs and win a national championship, it would be a different story.
The other thing here is that I think Georgia Tech is getting way too much respect. This is not the 12th best team in the country. I know they nearly upset Florida State, but so has just about every other team that’s faced the Seminoles this season. They had what’s perceived to be a big win at in-state rival Georgia, but that was a horrible spot for the Bulldogs. The day prior to the Yellow Jackets taking on Georgia, Missouri rallied to beat Arkansas to prevent the Bulldogs from playing in the SEC Championship Game. It’s also worth noting that their 28-6 win over Clemson came with the Tigers losing star freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson in the 1st quarter.
I’ll gladly lay a touchdown with the more talented team that has a coach that’s gone 3-1 in bowl games against a coach that has gone 1-5. Keep in mind that one of the big reasons Georgia Tech struggles in bowl games, is because teams have such a long amount of time to prepare for the triple-option attack.
I think there’s a lot bigger gap in talent that what people think here and I look for the Bulldogs to turn this into a blowout. It’s no secret that Georgia Tech’s offense is built around their running game. That plays right into the strength of the Mississippi State defense, which finished the year 24th against the run (126.5 ypg) compared to 116th against the pass (285.2 ypg). Defensively the Yellow Jackets struggled against both the run (168.8 ypg, 66th) and the pass (227.6 ypg, 64th) and will be going up against a Bulldogs offense that averaged 37.2 ppg and finished 9th in the country with an average 506.1 ypg.
You also can’t overlook the history of these two head coaches and how they have got their teams to respond in bowl games. I’ll gladly lay a touchdown with the more talented team that has a coach that’s gone 3-1 in bowl games against a coach that has gone 1-5. Keep in mind that one of the big reasons Georgia Tech struggles in bowl games, is because teams have such a long amount of time to prepare for the triple-option attack.