They will be fighting like cats and dogs in the Gator Bowl with the Northwestern Wildcats of the Big Ten scrapping with the Mississippi State Bulldogs of the SEC. The early Gator Bowl odds listed the Bulldogs as two-point favorites over the Wildcats, with a total of 52. And if recent bowl history matters at all, the prediction could be the favorite covering the spread.
Mississippi State, 5-1 ATS in its past six bowl games according to the Gator Bowl history at OddsShark.com, was picked to finish somewhere behind Alabama and LSU this season in the SEC's West Division.
That happened, but the Bulldogs created some buzz when they won their first seven games, rising to No. 11 in the rankings. But the schedule then got a little tougher, and reality set in; the Bulldogs lost at Alabama, at home to Texas A&M and at LSU.
MSU then beat Arkansas, but ended its regular season with a 41-24 Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss, its fourth defeat over its last five games. On the season, the Bulldogs played opponents to a 389-389 YPG statistical tie, but got outrushed by a 166-141 YPG margin.
Northwestern, losers of nine straight bowl games but 3-1 ATS in their past four, figured to finish somewhere behind Nebraska and Michigan in the Big Ten's Legends Division this season. But the 'Cats came close to really causing some havoc within that conference, and very nearly earned themselves a much bigger bowl berth than the Gator.
Northwestern started 5-0 this year, but then gave up an 11-point fourth-quarter lead and lost at Penn State 39-28. A couple weeks later the 'Cats surrendered a 12-point fourth-quarter lead vs. Nebraska and lost 29-28. And two weeks after that N'Western coughed up a 10-point third-quarter advantage and lost at Michigan in overtime 38-31.
The Wildcats then completed their regular season with a 23-20 victory at Michigan State and a 50-14 romp over in-state rival Illinois.
In getting little respect from the oddsmakers, Northwestern is 11-1 ATS this season.
Led by RB Venric Mark and QB Kain Colter, who combined to rush for over 2,100 yards and 23 scores, the Wildcats averaged 398 YPG on offense this season, and outrushed opponents by a 231-123 YPG margin.
MSU is 2-0 in bowls in three seasons under Coach Mullen. Last year the Bulldogs beat Wake Forest in the Music City Bowl 23-17.
Northwestern is playing in a bowl for the fifth straight season under Coach Fitzgerald, but has yet to win one. Four years ago the Wildcats lost the Alamo Bowl to Missouri in overtime; three years ago they lost the Outback Bowl to Auburn in overtime; two years ago they lost the Ticket City Bowl to Texas Tech by a touchdown; and last year they lost the Car Care Bowl to Texas A&M 33-22.
Gator Bowl Pick: Northwestern has lost its last nine bowl games; it's time for this program to snap that dubious streak against a team that has lost four of five. We'll take the Wildcats. (courtesy of PickShark.com)
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