Last Updated: 2017-12-30
A 3-3 day on Friday, as we’re still laboring a bit in the bowl games and sit at 16-15 playing every game, which isn’t the best strategy, but we’ll go at it again Saturday, beginning with the Taxslayer Bowl from Jacksonville, where Louisville is favored by 7 over Mississippi State and the total has climbed to 63.
There’s a huge difference in quarterbacks in this one, as Louisville’s Lamar Jackson is the best two-way threat in the country, throwing for 3,489 yards and 25 touchdowns and rushing for more than 1,400 and 17 more scores, while Mississippi State will counter with true freshman Keytaon Thompson after starter Nick Fitzgerald was injured. Thompson is a running threat himself, gaining 336 yards on 48 carries and scoring three times.
The Cardinals have one of the best offenses in the country, averaging 10.8 more points per game than their opponents allow and gaining 560.5 yards per game. Louisville rushed for 6.6 yards per carry against teams who allowed 4.7 yards per carry and completed 61% of their passes against teams who allowed 57.9%.
On defense, Louisville was pretty average and allowed 1.9 more points than their opponents averaged and were slightly better than average at stopping the run, and average at pass defense.
Mississippi State averaged 32.1 points against teams who allowed 25.7 points, so their offense was a strong point even though they didn’t put up overly impressive stats, gaining 419 yards per game. The Bulldogs averaged 5.2 yards per carry against teams who allowed 4.3 yards and rushed for 172 yards against Alabama in a 7-point loss. Thompson’s passing is a bit of a question mark though, as he completed just 45.7% of his passes and threw for two touchdowns and one interception in 46 attempts.
The Bulldogs were solid on defense, holding teams to 7.4 fewer points than they averaged and allowed an average of 3.7 yards per carry to teams who averaged 4.5 yards and held opposing teams to a lower completion percentage, lower yards per pass attempt and yards per play than they averaged.
The Bulldogs will be led by interim coach Greg Knox after Dan Mullen took the Florida job and teams with coaching issues haven’t fared well this season. Mississippi State also played a tougher slate and their four losses came to Alabama, Georgia, Auburn and Ole Miss, while Louisville lost to Clemson, NC State, Boston College and Wake Forest.
The public is all over Louisville, but the Bulldogs are probably the second-best defense they’ll see this season, so will have to grab the underdog in this one as an anti-public play and hold the Bulldogs can slow down Louisville’s offense enough to get the cover.
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