Mississippi State vs. Miami (OH) St. Petersburg Bowl prediction and game preview. Projecting who wins between the Bulldogs and RedHawks in St. Petersburg, FL.
Mississippi St. vs. Miami (OH) St. Petersburg Bowl Preview
When: Monday, Dec. 26 – 11:00 a.m. ET
Where: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, FL
TV Broadcast: ESPN
The Bulldogs (5-7, 3-5 SEC) had a strong finish to the season, as Dan Mullen’s squad had a shockingly easy time in the Egg Bowl with a 55-20 win over Ole Miss. In a year in which the Bulldogs fell to Sun Belt foe South Alabama in Starkville, MSU is still able to go bowling despite having just five wins because of its high ranking in the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate scores.
Meanwhile, the RedHawks (6-6, 6-2 MAC) began the season 0-6, but they won their final six games of the year to become eligible for a bowl at 6-6. Gus Ragland threw for 380 yards and three touchdowns, including a 27-yarder to Sam Shisso in the fourth quarter, to give the RedHawks a 21-20 win over Ball State in the regular season finale to help get the RedHawks eligible for the postseason for the first time since 2010. Miami (OH) became the first team in college football to finish a regular season 6-6 after losing its first six games.
Mississippi State and Miami (OH) have never met on the gridiron.
What To Know About Mississippi State
Dak Prescott was the best quarterback that Mullen has had in Starkville, and he will probably still go down as one of the more underrated players in SEC history. It’s still very early, but there’s a chance that Nick Fitzgerald goes down as the second-best signal-caller for the Bulldogs under Mullen. He ran with the starting gig after his performance against South Carolina, as he completed 65.5 percent of his passes for 178 yards with two touchdowns against one interception and ran for 195 yards against the Gamecocks. There have been some youthful moments, of course, and he still needs to become considerably better as a passer. But he is developing, and he’s seen a rise in total yards per game as the season progressed. Mississippi State has depended on him running the ball late in the year, and I would expect that to continue until he has a full offseason to work on his throwing.
What to Know About Miami (OH)
The RedHawks’ six-game win streak started when Ragland took over as their starting quarterback. Chuck Martin’s program has thrived under the former Cincinnati prep star, who suffered a spring ACL tear in his right knee but recovered in time to start in mid-Ocotber against Kent State. In that game, he led an 11-point second-half comeback, capped by a game-winning 55-yard touchdown pass with less than two minutes remaining. The redshirt sophomore is a threat with his legs as well. Martin, who left his post as Notre Dame offensive coordinator in 2013 to lead a program that was coming off of an 0-12 season, had seasons of 2-10 and 3-9 before the 2016 campaign. It was very concerning when the RedHawks lost their six straight games, but the turnaround has been huge.
Offense: Mississippi State. Miami’s offense has been better with Ragland, but the sky is the limit for the Bulldogs with Fitzgerald.
Defense: Miami (OH). The RedHawks are led by their stout defense, which has helped when the offense has stalled.
Special Teams: Even. The RedHawks’ Nick Dowd has missed four extra points, while the Bulldogs’ Westin Graves has missed eight field goals.
Coaching: Mississippi State. Mullen gets the edge for what he has done in Starkville, but Martin won two national titles at Division II Grand Valley State and reached the BCS title game in his first year as ND’s offensive coordinator.
Intangibles: Miami (OH). The RedHawks have nothing to lose in this one.
Matchup To Watch
Fitzgerald vs. Ragland
The future is bright for the Bulldogs on the offensive side of the ball, as Fitzgerald is an impressive dual-threat quarterback with a high ceiling. Meanwhile, Ragland won a state title and was a state co-player of the year in 2013 but did not generate much FBS interest. However, Martin wanted him to be a big part of the Miami (OH) revival, and he has been. He will be facing an SEC defense in this one, though, so it will be a tough test. But keep in mind that Fitzgerald will be facing one of the best defenses in the MAC.
Spread: No Spread (as of post)
Over/Under: No Line (as of post)
Mississippi State vs. Miami (OH) Prediction
The RedHawks will put up a fight in the first half behind their feisty defense, but Fitzgerald and the Bulldogs offense take over in the second half to give Mullen a bowl win as Mississippi State looks for a more successful 2017 campaign in the SEC West.
Mississippi State vs. Miami (OH) Final Score Prediction: Mississippi State 38, Miami (OH) 23
Campus Insiders Staff Picks
Brian Stultz: Mississippi State
Dave Miller: Mississippi State
Jeff Bartl: Mississippi State
Rich Cirminiello: Mississippi State
Robert Judin: Mississippi State
Pete Fiutak: Mississippi State