Miami (OH) RedHawks (6-6 SU, 8-4 ATS) vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs (5-7 SU, 5-7 ATS)
College Football St. Petersburg Bowl
Date/Time: Monday December 26th, 2016. 11:00AM (EST)
Where: Tropicana Field St. Petersburg, F.L.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: M-OH +12.5/MSST -12.5
Over/Under Total: 58
The 2016 St. Petersburg Bowl will be held at Tropicana Field when the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks faceoff against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The Bulldogs find their postseason matchup somewhat surprising considering the fact they finished the season at 5-7 SU. Typically teams needed at least 6 wins to become bowl eligible. However due to the amount of teams that reached the 6 win mark this season; Mississippi State was 1 of just 3 teams with 5 wins that were still granted a postseason bowl berth. Now the Bulldogs look to capitalize off their opportunity as they will be 12.5 point favorites when they meet the RedHawks on December 26th.
While Mississippi State will have the opportunity to capitalize on their postseason fortune, the RedHawks will also have the opportunity to shine against an SEC opponent. Miami (Ohio) is riding a wave of momentum into the postseason with 6 straight wins to close out the season. After starting the year 0-6, the RedHawks became the first team in college football history to bounce back from an 0-6 start to finish 6-6. The big change that happened during that time period was the return of starting quarterback Gus Ragland. Ragland injured his ACL before the year began and the team went 0-6 in his absence. Once Ragland was cleared to play at the midpoint in the season, he has breathed life back into the offense with 6 straight wins while throwing for 1,274 yards with 15 touchdowns and 0 interceptions.
As a result, the RedHawks have been a different team. They have pulled out close wins and they have made convincing wins during the 2nd half of the season while also becoming a pretty solid betting option with an 8-4 mark ATS. Of course this St. Petersburg Bowl matchup against Mississippi State will provide a different type of opponent. Mississippi State has talent and a physical edge in this matchup. Sure they suffered some embarrassing losses this year to South Alabama and BYU primarily due to offensive woes, but I don’t think we should look at their record alone which is a product of being torn apart by the best division in the FBS by way of the SEC West.
After all there is a reason, the 5-7 team is 12.5 point favorites in this game and record has nothing to do with that fact. Offensively the Bulldogs live and die behind the play of quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald has been nearly the Bulldogs’ entire offense this season with 2,287 passing yards with 21 scores and 10 picks combined with an additional 1,243 yards on the ground with 14 touchdowns. Fitzgerald is a great playmaker and even has some big talent in the receiving corps in Fred Ross and Donald Gray to target. The downside to Fitzgerald is that he has not been very accurate throwing the football completing just 54% on the season. Therefore when defenses have been able to take away the run, the Bulldogs have struggled which has been the case in most of their losses this season.
Therefore, this game really comes down to the RedHawks ability to stop the run. Even with Miami’s offense showing new life, I don’t believe they can contend for the victory if they do not get a strong defensive effort. Luckily for those that will be cheering for the underdog, the RedHawks have been pretty solid against the run ranking 33rd in the FBS allowing just 139 yards per game on the ground. Therefore, I think they may be a surprise pick to contend in this football game especially when you consider the Miami offense’s new momentum with Ragland that will be targeting a Bulldogs defense that ranks 110th in total defense allowing 461 yards per game. All matchup signs point to the RedHawks so I will be going with the underdog for those reasons.
Jay's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Take Miami (Ohio) +12.5
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