Gator Bowl Picks: Mississippi State vs. Michigan Analysis

Last Updated: December 31st, 2010 by Adam Markowitz (Bankroll Sports Columnist)

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In the third game of the “New Year’s Resolution” between the SEC and the Big Ten, the Gator Bowl will pit the Mississippi State Bulldogs against the Michigan Wolverines. These two teams have taken very different paths to get here this year, but they are both going to be proud to be here in Jacksonville. But which team will beat the Gator Bowl odds at Ever Bank Stadium? The three keys to this game are going to be the difference.

Key #1: Mississippi State’s defense has to use the exact same game plan it used against Auburn
It’s not often that you see Auburn Tigers QB Cam Newton be held down in a game, but that’s exactly what happened when he faced these Bulldogs early in the season. Now, what we need to remember is that this was several months ago before we even knew that Newton was going to be a Heisman candidate, let alone a runaway winner of the award. On that day, he rushed for just 70 yards and threw for just 136 yards and two total scores with a pick. The Tigers were held to just 350 yards on the day, and the Bulldogs were able to stay alive every step of the way to nearly pull off the upset. (However, on that day, MSU was only a one point underdog.) QB Denard Robinson is built in the exact same mold as Newton from the standpoint that he will look to throw the ball after he checks his running options. Newton was originally viewed as a poor man’s Robinson, but what ended up happening was the exact opposite. Still, this is a dynamic rusher that can make a lot of things happen, but the MSU defense needs to figure out how to contain him.

Gator Bowl Odds at BetUS Sportsbook
Mississippi State Bulldogs -4.5
Michigan Wolverines +4.5
Over/Under 59.5
Click Here to Bet on Your Gator Bowl Picks!

Key #2: Michigan has to keep Robinson clean
The problem with Robinson is that he is really a one man band on this team. He handled the ball 495 times this year, 245 of them coming on the ground. He really has no regard for his body at times and takes a tremendous beating. Michigan had to switch to backup QB Tate Forcier on several instances over the course of the year when Robinson either wasn’t at his best or when he had taken a few too many shots. In this game though, Forcier won’t be here. He was ruled academically ineligible for this game, which really just leaves Robinson to take care of himself. The offensive line has to do a great job taking care of him in the pocket, and RB Vincent Smith and RB Michael Shaw might have to do some more carrier of the football at times if Head Coach Rich Rodriguez wants to stay competitive in this game. If anything happens to Robinson, Big Blue is finished.

Key #3: Someone has to step up in the passing game for the Bulldogs
We know that it just isn’t in the nature of the Bulldogs to try to throw the ball all that much, but this secondary for Michigan is very, very bad 260.2 yards per game allowed. Normally speaking, QB Chris Relf would be trying to get the ball in the air to WR Chad Bumphis. However, Bumphis isn’t likely to be in the lineup in this one due to a collarbone injury. Both WR Malcolm Johnson and WR Leon Berry are questionable as well, while TE Marcus Green is definitely out of the game. Relf only threw the ball 195 times this year for 1,495 yards and nine scores, but a ton of his passes were in the direction of his top receiver. With Bumphis out, WR Arceto Clark becomes the team’s top receiver. The problem with that? Clark only had 22 catches for 317 yards and a pair of TDs. Someone has to step it up in a big way to be able to keep this offense balanced.

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Posted in College Football - Last Updated on Friday, December 31st, 2010 @ 6:50 pm (EST)
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