Mississippi State Bulldogs (4-2, 3-2 ATS) at No. 22 Florida Gators (4-2, 3-3 ATS), Week 7 College Football, Saturday October 16th, 7:00PM Eastern Ben Griffith Stadium Gainesville, F.L.
By Jay Horne, Professional Sports Handicapper of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: MSU +7.5/Fla -7.5
Over/Under Total: OFF
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The no. 22 Florida Gators went down for the 2nd straight week last Saturday as they were defeated by now no. 9 LSU 33-29. It was just the 2nd time in the Urban Meyer era that the Gators lost back to back football games. A week after being dismantled by Alabama 31-6, this was the Gators chance to make a statement and prove they were still among the premier teams in the SEC. However, things were not to be. LSU, who most thought were over-rated, dominated both sides of the ball and eventually pulled out another close victory. Florida who has now fallen to two top 10 teams is now set to host the Mississippi State Bulldogs this Saturday in The Swamp. Miss. St. will roll into Gainesville after dominating a Houston Cougars potent offensive team 47-24. Interestingly enough the Bulldogs only two losses this season were also both to currently top 10 ranked teams which set-ups an interesting match-up of the “whos who?” in the SEC.
I know most of America expects Florida to rebound here, but throw caution to the wind. The Bulldogs can move the football and play strong defense. Plus Florida has not been the explosive offensive team of year’s past. Head Coach Dan Mullen, the former Florida Offensive Coordinator, gave UF all they could handle a year ago when the Bulldogs lead 16-13 going into the 4th quarter. The Gators of course pulled out that victory, but the Bulldogs are even better this season and it’s safe to say the Gators are not. There is not any game that Mullen would rather have more, than capturing a win over his old mentor in Urban Meyer.
As for the Bulldogs, their offense is finally coming around. Quarterbacks Chris Relf and Tyler Russell are both still splitting time behind center. However, Relf appears to be the guy getting the most action. While Russell is the better pure passer, Relf can make things happen with his legs. After all, the Bulldogs have move the ball well on the ground so having Relf behind center makes the running game even stronger. Relf is 2nd on the team in rushing with 295 yards. Running back Victor Ballard leads the team with 418 rushing yards and a ridiculous 11 touchdowns on the season.
The Bulldogs rushing offense has averaged 211 yards per game this season so it is safe to say they will attack on the ground again this Saturday. However, keep your eyes on WR Chad Bumphis. Bumphis has 32 catches for 431 yards and 4 touchdowns this season. The talented wide out can flat out make plays especially if defenses get to keyed in on the run. Now both Relf and Russell have had big issues with consistency this season so the less the Bulldogs have to pass perhaps the better. However, either quarterback will still need to make a few occasional throws and get the ball in the hands of their star wide out for a few possible big gains.
Florida has a solid defense, but LSU proved last week that the Gators defense was conquerable. Not only did the Tigers rack up 161 yards on the ground, but that also eat up the secondary on passes underneath. I would not surprised to see a lot of the same from the Mississippi State offense, but that’s also not saying the result may be the same. Florida leads the nation with 13 interceptions and if they can force the Mississippi State quarterbacks into passing situations they will have a chance at a few more. Turnovers will be critical in this game and it would not be the least big surprising to see the Gators defense pick off a few passes as well.
On offense the Gators have continuously struggled on the offensive side of the ball, but they did manage to post 29 points against on of the top defenses in the nation last week in LSU. QB John Brantley completed 16 of 24 passing for 154 yards, 0 scores, and 1 pick last week. Brantley had a horrible game against Alabama, but was solid last week despite moderate numbers. The problem remains where the Gators are still lacking the go to guy at wide out. WR Deonte Thompson has the best numbers on the season, but has not been consistent. Therefore, when Brantley has been pressured he has not been very good. If the Bulldogs can get pressure, it will do wonders for keeping them in the ballgame. The one area Florida has been very strong this season is running the football. Starting tailback Jeffery Demps was out last week against LSU, but he will be back this Saturday. Demps has 414 yards on just 65 carries this season averaging out at 6.5 yards a pop. The Gators hope that Demps can get back on track this Saturday which would make the offense much more lethal.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: It would not surprise me to see the Bulldogs pull this one off. Everyone is expecting Florida to bounce back, but Mississippi State will be fired up for this one. I like the Bulldogs in this one especially with the points.