With Loss of QB & Coach, Fade MSU vs. Louisville in TaxSlayer Bowl

taxslayer bowl

Doug Upstone

Tuesday, December 19, 2017 4:57 PM UTC

Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017 4:57 PM UTC

A couple of 8-4 teams from power conferences will collide on the last Saturday of 2017 in the TaxSlayer Bowl. Louisville will take on No. 24 Mississippi State in the first of four bowls on Dec. 30.

 

Louisville Cardinals vs. No. 24 Mississippi State BulldogsFree NCAAF Pick: Louisville -7Best Line Offered: BetOnline

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This could have been a really intriguing quarterback matchup between Lamar Jackson and Nick Fitzgerald. Unfortunately, MSU's Fitzgerald was hurt in the Egg Bowl and will not play. When surveying the college football odds, the Louisville has been pushed from -5.5 to -7 and the total also went with it, rising from 61.5 to 63. Here is each team's story going in this matchup.

Louisville Preview

For most of the season, Louisville was just another ACC club, being able to score with Jackson, last year's Heisman Trophy winner, at 39 points a game. For reasons not altogether clear, Jackson had no buzz coming into the season. It was obvious Jackson was more than capable of leading the Cardinals, and Louisville quietly ended up 4th in total offense at 561 yards per contest. Another part of the Cardinals' national disappearance was a 2-4 mark in the ACC, which at that point they were permitting 39.3 PPG in conference. Louisville is small defensively and does not tackle great in space. Jackson and Co. put together a late season surge with a 3-0 SU and ATS finish and the defense conceded just 48 points in those contests, though each offense they took on was below average.

Mississippi State Preview

The loss of Fitzgerald hurt and next losing head coach Dan Mullen to Florida was a real blow to the program. Mississippi State falling at Auburn and at Georgia was not unexpected, and the Bulldogs had Alabama beat at home but let the Tide escape in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs will rely on massive offense line, which helped them finish 14th in rushing nationally at almost 250 yards a game. The passing game is almost nonexistent, even with Fitzgerald, ranked 109th. Defensively, Mississippi State had arguably its fastest defense in the Mullen era and only permitted 20.4 PPG. If the defensive front can generate penetration, it can stuff the run. Where the Bulldogs had problems was against faster offenses like Louisville in not filling the gaps with linebackers in the right places.

TaxSlayer Bowl Outcome

For college football picks, Mississippi State falls into a "coach leaving category," which is seldom a positive unless a popular assistant gets the job, which did not occur in Starkville. With Jackson and his teammates having lost by 20 in last year's Citrus Bowl, they should be mentally ready, with the same not necessarily true of the Bulldogs. With the total in the 60s, that fits the Cardinals' style of play and Mississippi State will not be able to match points with the 'Ville.

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