Mississippi State Bulldogs (8-4, 4-4 SEC) vs. Michigan Wolverines (7-5, 3-5 Big Ten)
Progressive Gator Bowl
January 1 - 1:30 pm - ESPN2
$2,750,000 payout per team
This year, the 65thGator Bowl from Jacksonville Florida pits the Michigan Wolverines against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. It will be the Bulldogs first appearance in the Gator Bowl, while the Wolverines have made two previous appearances. Michigan lost to North Carolina in the 1979 Gator Bowl, while beating Mississippi in their most recent appearance in 1991. Last year's Gator Bowl was the final game for legendary coach Bobby Bowden whose Florida State Seminoles beat the West Virginia Mountaineers 33-21.
Michigan enters the Gator Bowl as the seventh place team in the Big Ten, finishing the year with a 7-5 record. Mississippi State enters the game with an 8-4 record, which was good enough for a sixth place finish in the SEC. Michigan has never faced Mississippi State, though Rich Rodriguez beat the Bulldogs twice as West Virginia’s head coach in 2006 and 2007.
The Wolverines are led by dynamic duel threat quarterback Denard Robinsion, and Rich Rodriguez’s spread offense can pile up points in bunches. Problem is, the key to this game will be whether or not the Michigan defense decides to play. The 102ndranked defense in the country, the Wolverines give up over thirty three points per game, so it's often hard for their offense to keep up. Against the Bulldogs’ stout defense, Robinson could have trouble and the defense might dig a hole that’s hard to get out of.
- SBN Pittsburgh analysis by Aaron Hawley
SBN PITTSBURGH BOLD PREDICTION: Michigan 38, Mississippi 31
The spread offense and speed will be everywhere in Jacksonville. Florida native Denard Robinson leads the nation's No. 6 offense against a Mississippi State squad that ranks 16th nationally in rushing and boasts a better defense than Michigan. A hot young coach (Mississippi State's Dan Mullen) goes up against a coach on the hot seat (Michigan's Rich Rodriguez). -- Adam Rittenberg