One of the biggest annual tests of conference power is the Liberty Bowl, which sees the champion of Conference-USA face off against one of the middle teams in the SEC. This season, it's a 10-win Rice team squaring off against a .500 Mississippi State squad.
You'd be hard-pressed to find six better losses than the ones Mississippi State can claim. Oklahoma State, Auburn, LSU, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Alabama are all playing in major bowl games, and while the Bulldogs were unable to pull off any big upsets, their losses are certainly understandable. Mississippi State's best wins came over MAC champions Bowling Green and in-state rival Ole Miss, and the Bullies will look to add to that list with the Owls.
Rice was actually in the national spotlight early for reasons little to do with the Owls, as they faced reigning Heisman winner Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M in the opener -- a game in which Johnny Football was suspended for the first half. The Owls opened 1-2 with losses to the Aggies and Houston before rattling off five straight wins (with four in conference play) to become bowl eligible. Rice's only conference loss came against North Texas, and they defeated Tulane and upset Marshall in the conference title game to get to this bowl.
Rankings and records: Neither team is ranked. Rice sports a 10-3 record, winning the Conference-USA West with a 7-1 conference record. Mississippi State went 6-6 in the regular season, finishing fifth in the SEC West with a 3-5 record in conference play. The Owls won the only prior game between the two schools.
Vegas: Mississippi State is a seven-point favorite. The over/under is 50.5 points.
Weather: Low 40s.
Three names to know
Dak Prescott. Mississippi State hasn't exactly found consistency at the quarterback position, but Prescott is the one who has played the most, leading the team in passing (1,657 yards) and rushing (751 yards) while scoring 18 total touchdowns.
Nickoe Whitley. The Bulldogs' senior defensive back is a turnover machine, with five interceptions, two fumbles forced, one blocked kick and one fumble recovery.
Charles Ross. The workhorse back has over 200 carries this season for Rice, averaging 6.2 yards per rush with 14 touchdowns.
Two things at stake
Rice pulled off the upset in the Conference-USA Championship Game, and is looking to prove it is for real with a victory over an SEC team.
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen is on the hot seat, and losing to Rice and clinching a losing season would not help his cause.
How to witness
TV: 4 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Radio: For Rice, try 1560 AM. Here's a list of Mississippi State affiliates.
Online streaming: WatchESPN.
Location: Memphis, Tennessee
Stadium: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium -- capacity 59,308
Last year's score: Tulsa 31, Iowa State 17
Last year's attendance: 53,607
Last year's TV rating: 1.7
Last year's payout for each school: Approximately $2 million
Team with the most all-time appearances: Six tied with four
Team with the most all-time wins: Ole Miss (four)