Jan 3, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; The champion trophy is seen on stage after Clemson Tigers defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes 40-35 in the 2014 Orange Bowl college football game at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
This year’s Orange Bowl will be played on New Year’s Eve and feature Mississippi State vs. Georgia Tech. Two schools with strong engineering schools and really old football stadiums – but none of that matters here. It’s the triple option vs. the spread – ACC vs. SEC. Kickoff is set for 7:00 CST on ESPN.
GA Tech boasts a remarkable streak of bowl appearances – this will be their 18th consecutive trip to the postseason. Mississippi State is in the midst of their best stretch of bowl games in program history as well, with this game marking their 5th straight trip. Paul Johnson, however, is just 1-5 in bowl games at GT, while Dan Mullen is 3-1 at MSU.
These two coaches met in 2009 – Mullen’s first year – and Johnson won that game 42-31. It was Johnson’s best year at Tech, featuring an ACC championship and Orange Bowl appearance. Mississippi State finished just 5-7 in ’09, Mullen’s only losing season.
MSU rushing offense: 240 YPG (20th) vs. GT rushing defense: 169 YPG (71st)
MSU passing offense: 266n YPG (37th) vs. GT passing defense: 228 YPG (66th)
GT rushing offense: 334 YPG (3rd) vs. MSU rushing defense: 127 YPG (25th)
GT passing offense: 135 YPG (122nd) vs. MSU passing defense: 285 YPG (124th)
You could not find a better match-up in a bowl game for Mississippi State than this one. State’s offense has been dynamic and they’ll face a mediocre ACC defense, while the one weakness has been pass defense and they’re facing one of the worst passing offenses in the country (because they don’t pass, that is). The Bulldogs’ front seven has been really good all year against the run, and while this is a different animal facing the triple option, it’s better than playing an air raid offense.
GA TECH OFFENSE VS…… DESHEA TOWNSEND
Mississippi State announced on Saturday that cornerbacks coach Deshea Townsend would be calling plays on defense in place of the departed Geoff Collins. He’s just four years removed from playing in the NFL so obviously he’s never been in this position before. How will he handle it?
Honestly it shouldn’t be all that hard. While State has played a lot of zone defense this year, against the triple option it’s all about assignment, man defense. Stick to your guy. Calling plays isn’t so much a big deal as the plan and preparation for the game.
How did MSU prepare without Collins’ guidance? Who knows, but I know they had at least three coaches on that side of the ball plus Dan Mullen to make sure they understand what they have to do against Paul Johnson’s unique brand of football.
RUN THE FOOTBALL
This has the potential to be one of the fastest bowl games in college football history. There won’t be any chance of missing ‘New Year’s Rockin’ Eve’ or whatever you like because these two teams love to run the ball, which will keep the clock moving.
We know Georgia Tech is going to pound it on 80% of their plays. MSU needs to be around 60-70%. Dak Prescott and Josh Robinson are weapons, especially against less than elite defensive fronts. That’s when they make their most yardage, and that’s what we have in this game.
There’s no use in getting cute with fancy passing plays or trick plays – just run the football. The senior-laden offensive line is ready and willing to make a path – pound the ball down the field.
MAKING A BOWL ISN’T ENOUGH, YOU HAVE TO WIN
Penn State coach James Franklin said that after they beat Boston College on Saturday and I thought it was good. It’s not good enough to go to bowl games any more – even if it is the Orange Bowl.
How did it taste to loss the Gator Bowl after the 2012 season? Pretty wretched. In fact, it soured the entire off-season. To make matters worse was the Egg Bowl loss just prior which really put fans in a bad mood, as well as losing five of six to end the year.
It’s somewhat the same scenario this year. While a loss wouldn’t mean five of six, it would be three of four including the Egg Bowl and the bowl game. After starting out 9-0 and ranked #1 for three weeks, that would put a very sour note on a great year. MSU fans would have felt better after the 7-6 2013 year than this one if the Dawgs don’t beat the Yellow Jackets. This is a must win.
Mississippi State is the favorite, and if they play disciplined on defense while establishing the run and execute on offense they will win. It’s SEC #2 vs. ACC #2 and it’s important to win such a marquee game. Keep the bragging rights the conference has earned, and let’s show the nation that MSU is the next program ready to stay on the big stage for a while.