Taxslayer bowl preview: Mississippi state
By Mike Gilpatrick
December 29th, 2017
December 29th, 2017
The 2017 Louisville Football season concludes tomorrow. In what was a year bursting with ups and downs, the defense stepped up in the end, and the Cards received an invitation to the TaxSlayer Bowl, at Everbank Field in Jacksonville Florida. The other team are the Mississippi State Bulldogs, whom finished 9-4, but have lost two of their last three. The Dogs were also victims of the wild coaching carousel, and will face the Cards with an interim coaching staff.
Dan Mullen, their former head coach, accepted the same position at Florida. He took defensive coordinator Todd Grantham with him. As many Cards fans know, Grantham was Louisville’s defensive coordinator from 2014-16, before being “traded” for current DC Peter Sirmon.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Bulldogs respond to the coaching change. But, one more thing hurts them: Their QB, Nick Fitzgerald, isn’t at 100%. The junior suffered a severe ankle injury against Ole Miss their last game of the season. He’s bound to be less mobile. His injury will hurt the Mississippi State run game. Fitzgerald is their touchdown leader in the trenches. He scored 14 of the team’s 26 rushing touchdowns.
Mississippi State wins on the ground. With the run game limited, they must hope the defense is able to limit Louisville QB Lamar Jackson.
Whether they will is the million-dollar question. Anyone who’s followed college football knows how dynamic the junior from Pompano Beach, Florida is. He won the Heisman in 2016, and was even better this year. Many predict this will be his final game in a Louisville uniform, and that he will enter the NFL Draft. If it is his final game, it’ll be a homecoming of sorts. Everbank Field is just four hours away from his hometown; and is closer than any other opponent Louisville has faced this season.
The Bulldogs have a good defense. They’ve only allowed 20.4 points per game, and have forced 21 fumbles, and made nine interceptions, three of which went to the end zone. That was under Grantham. They have an interim coordinating the defense tomorrow.
Many indications point to Louisville winning. First, Bobby Petrino and his staff have been together for an entire year. They’ve worked on the defense through the stretch, and have a lot more momentum heading into this game. The offense has been almost even, and led by Jackson. It’s tremendously more potent than Mississippi State, especially considering Fitzgerald’s injury.
Perhaps the only arrow going into Mississippi State’s direction is that defensive stars James Hearns and Jaire Alexander won’t play tomorrow. That’ll make things a little easier on the Bulldogs.
Regardless, I like the coaching experience, and Jackson. I think it’ll be a memorable conclusion to a historic career. The Cards will conclude this year 9-4.
My Prediction: Louisville 44, Mississippi State 35