Gator Bowl Preview

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When Mississippi State and #21 Northwestern face off on New Year’s Day it will be the first meeting between the two programs. There aren’t many similarities between the two schools, they are even cats while we are dogs. One interesting tidbit, however, is that MSU now has the longest bowl winning streak in the country with 5, and Northwestern has the longest bowl losing streak with 9.

This will be the second Gator Bowl in three years for the Dawgs. While is is great to be in a bowl game, and even greater to be in a New Year’s Day bowl game, a lot of the luster has been taken off by losing 4 of the last 5 and especially the Egg Bowl. Beating NW seems like a formality since State is from the SEC and they are from the Big Ten, but it isn’t.

Northwestern has plenty of motivation here. Not only are they trying to win their first bowl game since 1948, but they are looking for only their 3rd 10-win season in school history (2nd in the last 100 years). What’s more, the Big Ten is always fighting for some bragging rights on the SEC.

The Bulldogs should have some motivation of their own, but I’m not sure it will reach the level of the Wildcats’. But no matter where they emotional level is, MSU needs to win this one to prevent all the juice from that 7-0 start getting sucked out, and giving everyone around the program a sinking feeling.

Northwestern has a solid running game. Really they rely on the run almost predominantly with 1,310 yard rusher Venric Mark and running QB Kain Colter. That rushing offense ranks 15th in the country while their passing offense is 106th.

On defense, NW has defended the run almost as well as they’ve run it on offense – 21st in the nation. The pass defense is 97th, however, and Tyler Russell should be able to take advantage here.

I’d be surprised if State’s defense is able to stop the Wildcats on a consistent basis. They’ve scored at least 20 points in every game, so I don’t see that stopping here. State’s offense should be able to move the ball just as easily, however. This game going into the 30s scoring for both teams wouldn’t be a shocker.

Northwestern fans see this as a must-win, a big game. MSU fans are still yawning. Hopefully that is not the performance we’ll see from the players. A Bulldog win will probably be ho-hum unless it’s a 2010 vs. Michigan style blowout, but a loss will cause a big fuss. If I’m right about the high-scoring, Chris Wilson is likely to get even more heat for letting the defense fall apart.

This is a good matchup, and should be one of the better bowl games. Dan Mullen has won 15 straight non-conference games. Hail State.