Rice (+7) (-110) over Mississippi State
After capturing the Conference USA Championship, Rice will be making back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time since 1960. Rice is arguably the hottest team in college football as the Owls have won nine of its last ten games entering postseason play, including an impressive 41-24 win over Marshall in the conference title game. In contrast, Mississippi State needed wins over both Arkansas and Mississippi to become bowl eligible at 6-6, and I have a hard time believing an SEC team is excited to be playing in the Liberty Bowl on New Year’s Eve. But, that is not the case for Rice as head coach David Bailiff, who is 2-0 SU and ATS in bowl games, summed up the feelings of his players this week. “To have an opportunity to go win an 11th ballgame for the first time in the history of the school and to win a Liberty Bowl championship, that’s everything that was on the goals they set,” Bailiff said. “All our goals are still intact. It’s been an amazing run for us.”
Rice’s season turned around with the return of star running back Charles Ross, who returned from injury and eclipsed 100 yards in five of the last seven games. For the season, Ross garnered 1,292 yards at 6.2 yards per carry, and I expect him to have success this afternoon against the Bulldogs’ front seven. In fact, playing on the road has not hampered Rice’s offense as the Owls averaged 30.3 points per game and 239 rushing yards at 4.7 yards per carry away from home in 2013. Rice also possesses a downfield threat in wide receiver Jordan Taylor, an NFL prospect at 6’5″ who averaged 15.7 yards per reception this season. Rice should have success moving the ball against a Mississippi State defense that allowed 29.4 points per game on the road at 4.7 yards per rush play, 8.3 yards per pass attempt and 6.3 yards per play.
The technical analysis also favors Rice as head coach David Bailiff is 8-3 SU and 9-2 ATS when given extra time to prepare. Conversely, Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen is a money-burning 2-24 SU and 8-18 ATS versus .750 or greater opposition. Let’s also note that Mississippi State is just 4-18 SU and 6-16 ATS versus quality opposition (i.e. bowl teams) over the last three years. In addition, .749 or worse bowl favorites off consecutive wins, with the last victory coming against a conference foe, are 1-15 ATS versus .667 or greater opposition. Finally, Rice possess far superior special teams and has the motivation to win this game. Grab the generous points and invest with confidence.