Last Updated: 2018-12-10
The 34th edition of the Outback Bowl will see the SEC Mississippi State Bulldogs against the Big Ten Iowa Hawkeyes as two teams that had higher expectations still find themselves in a New Year’s bowl game. The Bulldogs are favorites at the -6.5 spread with the total at 44.5 points and Mississippi State at -250 money line odds.
The Bulldogs dismantled the Rebels to win the Egg Bowl
Mississippi State (8-4, 8-4 ATS) recorded the fourth win in the five games as they responded to a shutout defeat to the Alabama Crimson Tide with a pair of massive victories over the Arkansas Razorbacks and Ole Miss Rebels. The Bulldogs destroyed the Rebels, 35-3 as they totaled 420 yards in opposite to just 189 from Ole Miss, while Mississippi State had ten more first downs than the opponents (23-13), and even though the fight in the second half resulted in ejection of four players, that didn’t put a shadow on the Bulldogs’ impressive win. Once again, the Bulldogs’ passing game didn’t play an important role but they recorded even 309 rushing yards with four touchdowns.
Senior quarterback Nick Fitzgerald is completing 52.6 percent of his passes for 1615 yards with 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions for the Bulldogs but he also has over 1000 rushing yards with 12 touchdowns on the ground. Fitzgerald posted 111 passing yards with a touchdown in a win over the Rebels and added 117 rushing yards and a couple of touchdowns on 18 carries. Stephen Guidry and Osirus Mitchell will likely be Fitzgerald’s preferred receiving options when he decides to pass the ball and the pair is combining for 774 yards and seven touchdowns.
On the other hand, sophomore running back Kylin Hill is the second-best runner in the team behind the quarterback Fitzgerald with 691 yards and four touchdowns, while senior RB Aeris Williams has 502 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Mississippi State has the 66th offense that is averaging 29.1 points per contest, while their defense is the best in college football as it is allowing just 12.0 points per game. The Bulldogs’ passing game is the 112th in the country as they are averaging 175.6 yards, while the running offense is way better as they are recording 226.4 yards per game (21st).
The Hawkeyes beat Nebraska thanks to the final second field goal
Iowa (8-4, 7-5 ATS) bounced back from three consecutive defeats against Penn State, Purdue, and Northwestern with a couple of victories over Illinois and Nebraska to reach the Outback Bowl. The Hawkeyes blew a 15-point lead and were in jeopardy to lose the tilt but Miguel Recinos’ 41-yard field goal handed an important 31-28 win to Iowa who now has an opportunity to get their third Outback Bowl in school’s history. Even though their passing game which is a better part of their offense struggled a bit in this one, Iowa’s running game impressed as they recorded 266 yards with a pair of touchdowns but I don’t expect to see another excellent display on the ground against the best defense in the country.
Junior quarterback Nate Stanley is completing 58.6 percent of his passes for 2638 yards with 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions for the Hawkeyes. Stanley had 152 yards and two touchdowns in a win over the Cornhuskers but it’s not going to be easy against the 6th best rushing defense in college football. Running backs Mekhi Sargent and Toren Young are combining for 1378 yards on the ground with 14 touchdowns, while receivers T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant are combining for 1236 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Iowa’s offense is among the top 50 as they are scoring 31.5 points per contest (47th), while they have the top 20 defense that is allowing 17.4 points in return (11th). The Hawkeyes are averaging 227.7 passing yards per game (69th), while their running is average as they are recording 162.0 yards per game (76th). However, their passing game might take a hit in this one as the tight end Noah Fant, a two-time All-Big Ten selection and the No. 1 ranked tight end on Mel Kiper Jr.’s Big Board, will skip the bowl game as he plans to enter the NFL Draft.
• 5-0 ATS in their last five non-conference games
• 4-1 ATS in their last five games overall
• 4-1 ATS in their last five games after allowing less than 275 total yards in their previous game
• 9-4 ATS vs. an opponent with a winning record
• 1-3-1 ATS in their last five neutral site games
• 1-4 ATS in their last five games overall
• 1-7 ATS in their last eight games on grass
The Winner Prediction
These schools have never met before and even though Iowa’s head coach Kirk Ferentz has plenty of experience and is in his 20th season with the Hawkeyes, he does have a negative 7-8 record in bowl games and that’s why I am backing the Bulldogs to get a win here and cover the -6.5 spread. Iowa is not a boring team that is punting on almost every second drive and their football is one of the most creative in the country at the moment. Still, Mississippi State’s front seven is the best in college football and their head coach Joe Moorhead is one of the is one of the game’s most clever offensive minds and he proved that as he took the Bulldogs to the bowl game for the first time in his career already in his first season with the team. I expect the Bulldogs’ defense to prevail here, while Fitzgerald and Hill should dictate the tempo.
The Pick: Mississippi State Bulldogs -6.5 (-110)
Nate Stanley is a young and talented quarterback but he will be without his favorite receiver, the tight end Fant, so I don’t think Iowa’s offense will do much against such defenders as Montez Sweat, Jeffrey Simmons, Gerri Green, and linebacker Erroll Thompson. That being said, I don’t think we will see a bunch of points s both teams have excellent defenses and under is 7-3 in Hawkeyes last ten non-conference games, while under is 13-3 in Bulldogs previous 16 vs. a team with a winning record.
The Pick: Under 44.5 (-110)
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