Breaking down bowl season for the Miss-Lou

Published 12:02 am Sunday, December 28, 2014

Most say this time of the year is “the most wonderful time of the year.” I full heartedly agree.

I love bowl games simply for the matchups alone. See, I’m the type of nerdy sports fan that likes to dissect games, matchup by matchup.

When I started doing so with Mississippi State, LSU and Ole Miss, I found a lot of favorable matchups for each team.

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For LSU, the Tigers are benefitting from facing a beat up Notre Dame defense. The Irish are without two of their best defensive linemen — Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones,  the MVP of their team — linebacker Joe Schmidt,  and a secondary that’s been pulverized all season long and is missing multiple starters like Nicky Baratti and Drue Tranquill. Now, everyone and their momma knows LSU struggles to throw the football, but with LSU’s fierce running attack going against a depleted Notre Dame defense, the Tigers should blow the Irish off the ball and run all over them, eight men in the box or not. La’el Collins and Ethan Pocic are playing exceptionally well on the line of scrimmage, and with Leonard Fournette evolving into one of the best running backs in the nation, Notre Dame is going to have a hard time stopping LSU’s offense, especially with a true freshman linebacker in Nyles Morgan getting his first taste of the SEC. LSU should win big.

Moving on to the Rebels, Ole Miss has one of the most exciting games of the postseason with a showdown against TCU. In the contest, one of the more intriguing matchups this bowl season will be Trevone Boykin against that Landshark defensive backfield. Of course, Boykin excelled this season with 3,714 passing yards and 30 passing touchdowns. He especially turned it on late, with seven passing touchdowns in the last three games of the season.

Against Iowa State, in the season finale, TCU had at least eight different players carry the ball and 11 different playmakers were on the receiving end of a completion. But this ain’t Iowa State’s defense.

One alarming stat about Boykin is he’s thrown an interception in each of the last three games of the season. Going against Ole Miss’ secondary, a defense that was tied with Auburn for most interceptions in the SEC with 19, it shouldn’t be a surprise if Boykin slips up and throws a few turnovers Ole Miss’ way.

But, of course, we all know the real key to this game is Bo Wallace, as I fully expect Boykin and Ole Miss’ secondary to each make plays throughout the ball game. If good Bo shows up, then, “Hotty Toddy,” it’s going to be a good afternoon. If he doesn’t, well, Ole Miss fans might hibernate for a while.

Speaking of hibernation, the Mississippi State Bulldogs would love a reason to come out of the shadows. The first Orange Bowl victory since 1941 would certainly create a lot of buzz after a disappointing loss to Ole Miss to end the season. Beating the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets is definitely buzz worthy, but the Bulldogs’ run defense has to be much improved if it hopes to stop this triple-option attack. Ole Miss fans will be the first to tell you that running the ball is not the Rebels forte, sothe Bulldogs giving up 205 rushing yards to the Rebels is a pretty big deal, even though 91 of those yards came on one run. As you’d expect, Georgia Tech is one of the top teams in the nation (No. 3) in rushing yards per game with 334 yards per contest. If Bernardrick McKinney and other defensive contributors don’t wake up and nullify Georgia Tech’s attack, this could get ugly.

But Georgia Tech has to stop Mississippi State’s offense too. The Bulldogs pose a much more balanced attack with Dak Prescott able to facilitate the ball to his receivers or dial up those power runs Tim Tebow made famous with Dan Mullen at Florida. Georgia Tech’s defense is far from stellar, and with the Yellowjackets secondary arguably their biggest weakness (minus safety Jamal Golden), the Bulldogs should be able to use its aerial attack to win this one.

‘Tis the season to go 3-0 in bowls? The matchups suggest its more than possible.


JAKE MARTIN is the sports editor for The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3633 or