The Mississippi State Bulldogs are 5-1 in six bowl appearances since 1999 and the Rice Owls are 2-0 over their last two bowl appearances. The two teams meet in Memphis, Tennessee for the Liberty Bowl on December 31 with Mississippi State going off as an early seven-point favorite.
Mississippi State is one of those teams that are definitely better than their record. The Bulldogs went 0-6 in games in which they were an underdog of six points or more, facing a murderer's row of Oklahoma State, Auburn, LSU, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Alabama.
Mississippi State (SEC, 6-6 SU, 7-5 ATS, 4-8 OU) went 6-0 over the rest of its schedule including two strong wins to end the season on the road against Arkansas and at home against Ole Miss. The Bulldogs were 4-0 against the spread over their last four games.
[ Liberty Bowl betting history, current odds, matchup stats ]
The Rice Owls (Conference USA, 10-3 SU, 8-5 ATS, 6-7 OU) enjoyed their first 10-win season since 2008, fueled by a 9-1 straight-up and 6-4 against the spread run over the final 10 games of the year capped off by a 41-24 win in the Conference USA Championship Game over Marshall as a 6.5-point underdog.
Unlike the 2008 team that was a pass-heavy squad, Rice's bread and butter this season was the run, which finished 16th in the nation averaging 240.2 rushing yards per game. The defense also played well, holding opponents to just 196.1 passing yards per game and 22.9 points per game.
The total went UNDER in six of Mississippi State's last seven games down the stretch. With both of these teams playing a run-first and defensive style, this game could end up being a defensive struggle as well.
These matchups are always interesting, as even the weaker teams in the SEC like Mississippi State tend to have bigger and better athletes than even the top teams in conferences like Conference USA.
But underdogs are 7-2 against the spread over the last nine Liberty Bowls, and the Owls could continue that trend if they can get their running game going early.
Liberty Bowl computer Prediction: 32-26 Rice (from Odds Shark computer)