Orange Bowl Picks: Georgia Tech +6.5 vs. Mississippi State

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, December 17, 2014 2:51 PM GMT

Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014 2:51 PM GMT

It has been the greatest football season in MSU history. The No. 7 Bulldogs look to cap the year with a win in the Dec. 31 Orange Bowl against No. 12 Georgia Tech in Miami. Let's take a closer look at our college football picks. 

Prescott Leads MSU Offense
Mississippi State was the No. 1 team in the College Football Playoff rankings for a few weeks and junior quarterback Dak Prescott was the Heisman Trophy favorite for a week or two at sportsbooks. However, Mississippi State (10-2, 6-2) lost two of its final three games: 25-20 at Alabama and then 31-17 at Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl. That last defeat officially killed any chance MSU had of reaching the College Football Playoff.

Prescott finished eighth in the Heisman voting, the highest ever for a Bulldogs player. Prescott, who presumably will return next season (he's not a top pro prospect), shattered 10 individual MSU single-season records in 2014: total offense (3,935), total offense per game (327.9), touchdowns responsible for (37), completion percentage (.612), passing yards (2,996), passing yards per game (249.7), 200-yard passing games (11), passing touchdowns (24), passing efficiency (151.3) and rushing yards by a quarterback (939). Prescott was the only player in the nation to rank in the Top 20 in both passing and rushing touchdowns. He led the nation in third-down touchdowns responsible for (17) and third-down touchdown passes (10). MSU was 15th nationally in points scored at 37.2 per game and fifth in total offense (506.2 ypg).

The Bulldogs' defense was even better, ranking 10th nationally in allowing 19.4 points per game and No. 1 in the country in red-zone defense. The Bulldogs finished with 36 sacks, their most since head coach Dan Mullen arrived in 2009. If there was one weakness it was against the pass. Mississippi State ranked just 122nd nationally in allowing 285 yards per game through the air. Ole Miss had 327 yards passing in the Egg Bowl and Mullen was not happy about that, calling it a "pathetic" effort. Thus Mullen might  not be too upset that Florida hired away defensive coordinator Geoff Collins this week for the same position. It's not clear who will run the MSU defense in the bowl game as of this writing.

This was just the third 10-win season in school history. The first was in 1940, which was the last time MSU played in the Orange Bowl. Mullen was named SEC Coach of the Year by the Associated Press. There were reports Michigan was interested in him but Mullen said he's staying in Starkville.

MSU is 10-7 all time in bowl games. It beat Rice 44-7 in last year's Liberty Bowl. The Bulldogs are 7-5 against the college football odds betting spread this season and 5-7 'over/under.'

 

Tech Rarely Throws It
This should be a fascinating matchup when Georgia Tech has the ball because while Mississippi State is excellent against the run, that's all the Yellow Jackets do is run it in Coach Paul Johnson's triple-option attack. He was named ACC Coach of the Year for leading Tech (10-3, 6-2 ACC) to the ACC Championship Game. The Jackets gave Florida State all it could handle there, falling 37-35.  The Jackets were picked to finish fifth in the Coastal Division in the preseason ACC media poll.

Georgia Tech ranks 122nd in passing yards (135.2 per game) but No. 3 in rushing (school-record 333.6 yards per game). Sophomore QB Justin Thomas led the team with 965 yards rushing on 176 carries with five touchdowns. He also completed 89 of 175 passes for 1,594 yards, 17 touchdowns and five interceptions. Georgia Tech averages 37.0 points and 468.8 yards of offense, both the second-most in school history.

The Tech defense ranks 52nd in scoring (25.1 ppg) and forced 27 turnovers, which was 16th nationally. It's second in the country with six defensive TDs.

This is Georgia Tech's 18th straight bowl game, the second-longest active streak in the FBS. The Jackets have made six Orange Bowl trips and are 3-3. Tech has lost eight of its past nine bowl games. It was beaten 25-17 by Ole Miss in the 2013 Music City Bowl.

The Yellow Jackets are 4-0 all time vs. Mississippi State, but the schools haven't played since 2009. They didn't have a common opponent in 2014. Tech beat SEC team Georgia 30-24 in overtime on Nov. 29 in Athens, but MSU never faced Georgia. 

Georgia Tech is 9-4 against the spread at sportsbooks this season and 7-6 'over/under.'

Free College Football Picks: Georgia Tech +6.5 and 'under' 61.5 points. When making your college football picks keep in mind that the ACC fared very well vs. the SEC this year. The Jackets have covered five straight vs. teams with a winning record. The 'under' is 4-1 in MSU's past five games. The 'under' is 4-1 in Georgia Tech's last five vs. the SEC. 

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