Our 2016 St. Petersburg Bowl free pick has the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs. Miami (Ohio) finished second in the Mid-American East Conference this year. That was just behind Ohio. Mississippi State finished sixth in the very tough SEC West. Mississippi State ended up next to last in the South Eastern Conference West.
After running off six straight losses, the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks (6-6 Overall, 6-2 MAC), the Redhawks ran off six straight wins. That RUN and a second place finish in their division earned them a bowl berth. Mississippi State Bulldogs (5-7 Overall, 3-5 SEC) played three top 25 teams this season. They beat one of them, #4 Texas A&M, 35-28.
Miami (Ohio) RedHawks
Once QB Gus Ragland (62.4 COMP%, 15 TDs, 0 INT) started playing, the RedHawks started winning. Under him, they are 6-0. RB Alonzo Smith (159 ATT, 689 YDs, 4.3 AVG, 3 TDs) is the team’s primary running back. RB Kenny Young also offers additional pass catching chops. He has two touchdowns and 14 receptions as a receiver. WR James Gardner and Jared Murphy each have five TDs and have combined for 82 catches and close to 1,200 yards.
The team is scoring on average 23.4 PPG, while allowing 24.3. They have made 24 sacks, 14 interceptions, and 65 TFL. Also included are 12 FF, 21 QB hurries, and 65 PD. The question is can this defense stop a team like Mississippi State, which can score a lot of points quickly?
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Mississippi State is scoring on average 31.5 PPG. Nick Fitzgerald (54.6 COMP%, 21 TDs, 10 INTs) is a dual threat quarterback. Along with 21 passing touchdowns, he has 14 rushing scores as he’s averaging 7.0 YPA and has made 177 carries for 1,243 yards. Of his unit of pass catchers, Fred Ross (68 REC, 873 YDs, 12.8 AVG, 12 TDS) is his go-to guy.
The Bulldogs have a tough time defending against the pass. Thus, we do expect Miami (Ohio) to tally some points. Especially because State is allowing 33.1 PPG and has given up 31 passing TDs. The RedHawks are a passing team. Mississippi State has made 24 sacks, 78 TFL and 13 INTs. In addition, they have 11 FF, 29 QB hurries, and 32 PD.
2016 St. Petersburg Bowl Free Pick
Our 2016 St. Petersburg Bowl free pick is Mississippi State at -14.5. This is a quarterback duel and we think Fitzgerald will win it. The over/under is 58. We are taking the over.
The 2016 St. Petersburg Bowl kicks off on Monday, Dec. 26 at 11 a.m. ET on ESPN.