The No.7 Mississippi State Bulldogs (10-2, 6-2 SEC) and the No.12 Georgia Yellow Jackets (10-3, 6-2 ACC) finished the regular season just outside of the race for the College Football Playoff. The two teams will play the final college football game of 2014 when they meet in the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Eve.
Mississippi State was one of the most surprising teams in the sport, and they were in contention for the national championship until their last contest. Nine straight victories to start the season, including consecutive wins over LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn helped the Bulldogs claim the top spot in the polls in Week 8. The team remained at No.1 for four weeks, but relinquished their spot after a five-point loss at Alabama. Heading into their final game ranked No.4, Mississippi State closed out the season with a 31-17 loss at Ole Miss.
Georgia Tech was never in the national title picture, suffering losses to Duke and North Carolina in mid-October, failing to rank higher than No.22 until they beat then-No.19 Clemson on Nov. 15. The Yellow Jackets finished the season strong, even though they lost their last game. After beating then-No.9 Georgia in overtime, the team nearly defeated unbeaten Florida State in the ACC Championship Game, losing by two points.
Both teams have the ability to score a lot of points, ranking in the top 20 in offense. Mississippi State and Georgia Tech are led by quarterbacks that do lot of their damage with their legs.
Dak Prescott was considered a Heisman Trophy contender for much of the season. In addition to throwing for 2,996 yards and 24 touchdowns, the quarterback has also rushed for 939 yards and 13 scores. He’s looking to bounce back from late-season struggles that saw him throw three interceptions against Alabama, and total just 48 rushing yards on 24 attempts in Mississippi State’s last game. Running back Josh Robinson leads the teams with 1,128 rushing yards.
Running the triple-option, Justin Thomas has helped make Georgia Tech the No.3 rushing team in the nation. The sophomore has only completed 89 of 175 pass attempts for 1,594 yards and 17 touchdowns, but he’s one of the best running quarterbacks in the nation. Thomas has rushed for 965 yards on 5.5 yards per carry. Zach Laskey and Synjyn Davis have also rushed for over 750 yards each.
Benardrick McKinney will be the lone AP All-American defensive player on the field. The Mississippi State linebacker made the third team, leading the Bulldogs with 61 tackles, eight tackles for a loss and three sacks.
Dan Mullen has led Mississippi State to a bowl game in five consecutive years, winning three of four games. Georgia Tech has played in a bowl game every year since 1997.
Start Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Point Spread: Mississippi State favored by 6.5 points
Over/Under: 61.5 points
Prediction: Mississippi State over Georgia Tech, 31-27