Photo courtesy of Kelly Donoho/MSU Athletics
Mississippi State is in Tampa with a chance to end their season on a high note with a win over Iowa in the Outback Bowl tomorrow morning.
The Bulldogs’ regular season was filled with ups and downs, but they finished strong with a 35-3 drumming of Ole Miss in the annual Egg Bowl. A win in tomorrow’s matchup with Iowa will give them even more momentum heading into the offseason and heading into Joe Moorhead’s second year at the helm.
The game will most likely be decided by which team can control the clock and run the ball effectively. Throughout the season the Bulldogs have struggled to move the ball through the air and have played their best when they keep it on the ground.
With RBs Kylin Hill and Aeris Williams splitting carries, QB Nick Fitzgerald leads the Bulldogs in rushing with 1,018 yards on the year with 12 TDs. Iowa will try and force the senior QB to give the ball up early and get the Bulldogs into obvious passing situations.
For Iowa, they’re 5-0 this season when they rush for over 200 yards, so their blueprint isn’t hard to figure out. TE Noah Fant has decided to skip the bowl game in favor of preparing for the NFL Draft, but they’ll still have TE T.J. Hockenson available in the passing game when they need a reliable target. Hockenson won the Mackey Award and leads the team in receptions and yards with 46 catches for 717 yards.
When asked who Iowa reminds him of, Moorhead said they’ve seen a similar offense this season.
“To compartmentalize a little bit, offense, would be similar to an LSU type with some traditional 21 and 12 personnel groupings, physical offensive line. Quarterback can beat you with his arm. Obviously an excellent tight end and some game-breaking receivers. So certainly being able to defend the run, you know, the quick gain, the quarterback movement stuff,” Moorhead said.
Mississippi State will have their best defensive players on the field as both DE Montez Sweat and DL Jeffrey Simmons will suit up on last time before playing on Sundays.
This may be a low scoring affair as both teams consider their defenses to be their strength. MSU is allowing a mere 12 points per game, while Iowa isn’t allowing much more at just 17.4 points per game. Both units rank in the top-10 in total defense, and for Iowa, this will be the first SEC defense they’ve faced this season.
“They have some really talented guys,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said of Mississippi State’s defense. “They play well collectively. You look at their stats and it’s been steady. Not many teams have run the ball well on them. They do a good job of taking that away and they get you in third-and-longs.
The Bulldogs come into the game as a 7-point favorite, and kick off from Raymond James Stadium is set for 11 a.m.