2019 Outback Bowl Betting Guide: Mississippi State, Iowa Boast Elite Defenses

2019 Outback Bowl Betting Guide: Mississippi State, Iowa Boast Elite Defenses article feature image

USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Nate Stanley and Nick Fitzgerald

2019 Outback Betting Odds: Iowa-Mississippi State

  • Odds: Mississippi State -7
  • Over/Under: 41
  • Date: Tuesday, Jan. 1
  • Location: Tampa, Fla.
  • Time: 12 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN2

>> All odds as of Monday. Download The Action Network App to get real-time bowl odds and win probabilities on your bets

Mississippi State brings its elite defense to the Outback Bowl, where it will face an Iowa team that struggled to run the ball all season.

But MSU never figured outs its passing game and got dominated by the SEC’s best defenses.

Odds Movement for Outback Bowl

By Danny Donahue

Mississippi State opened as a 5-point favorite in the Outback Bowl, but has since jumped through the key number of -7 up to -7.5 at a handful of books. Sixty-four percent of bets accounting for 54% of dollars are behind the Bulldogs.

Sixty-three percent of bets have also hit the under. Generating 83% of money, those bets have dropped the total from 44.5 to 42.

Trends to Know

By Evan Abrams

In 2018, Mississippi State ended the season 9-2 (81.8%) to the under, going under the total by 12.6 PPG, the second-most profitable team to the under in the country.

Since Oct. 1, Mississippi State has faced three opponents allowing fewer than 20 PPG on the season and the under is 3-0, going under the total by 20.8 PPG.

By John Ewing

Iowa is an underdog getting little public support. Since 2005 teams like the Hawkeyes have returned a profit of $2,415 for a $100 bettors and hit at a 62% clip.

Mississippi State’s Passing Game Never Got Going 

By Steve Petrella

Mississippi State was horrific on offense against good defenses because it was so one-dimensional. It combined to score just 16 points against Alabama, LSU, Kentucky and Florida. 16! It topped 202 total yards in one of those games.

Iowa’s defense ranks 20th in S&P+, but doesn’t match up incredibly well with Mississippi State’s power-running offense.

Iowa Pass Rush May Be Neutralized 

By Steve Petrella

Iowa ranks 21st in adjusted sack rate and second in sack rate on passing downs. That’s been a huge advantage for the Hawkeyes.

But Mississippi State runs the ball so often and so effectively that there likely won’t be many passing down situations for Iowa’s pass rush to thrive. The Bulldogs run the ball more than all but 19 other teams (60.25% of plays).

Iowa Failed its Toughest Tests

By Steve Petrella

In typical Iowa fashion, Iowa went 8-4 this season. It lost four games by a combined 23 points:

  • Wisconsin
  • at Penn State
  • at Purdue
  • Northwestern

The Hawkeyes’ best win was probably a 13-3 victory over Iowa State in Week 2, before the Cyclones had taken off under a new quarterback, or a 31-28 win over Nebraska in Week 13. Not exactly murderer’s row.

Mismatch in the Red Zone

By Stuckey

Yes, Mississippi State’s defense ranks in the top five in red zone scoring, allowing opponents to score on only 71.9% of trips inside the 20. But even more impressive, the Bulldogs have allowed opposing teams to only score an NCAA-best eight total touchdowns in 32 red zone trips. EIGHT! That’s absurd.

Iowa ranks a very average 56th in red zone scoring percentage at 84.9%, but has only scored touchdowns on 36 of 53 trips inside the 20. Even more troubling is the fact that star tight end Noah Fant will sit out this game in advance of the NFL Draft. Fant was the best red zone option for the Hawkeyes.

The advanced metrics paint the same picture. Mississippi State ranks No. 1 in the nation in Finishing Drives, per S&P+. The Bulldogs’ defense also ranks in the top four in both inside-the-10 and 11-to-20-yard line success rates. Meanwhile, Iowa ranks 121st nationally in first-and-goal success rate, which you’d expect for a team that has no running game to speak of.

Considering Iowa’s offense doesn’t possess much explosiveness and the fact that Mississippi State’s defense contains explosive plays as well as any team in the country, Iowa will need to methodically drive down the field to score. But once the Hawkeyes are down inside the 20, they will struggle immensely to punch it in the end zone.

Additionally, the Mississippi State offense has excelled in the red zone, which isn’t surprising with its dominant rushing attack. The Bulldogs offense sits in the top 20 in red zone scoring percentage and also ranks in the top five in Finishing Drives. They should convert most of their trips inside the 20 into seven points against an Iowa defense that hasn’t thrived in the red zone.

This particular mismatch is one of the reasons I like Mississippi State and the under here. It doesn’t hurt the under’s case that these are two snails that rank in the bottom 15 in adjusted pace.

Bet to Watch

By Collin Wilson

I will be siding with Mississippi State in this contest. Joe Moorhead is familiar with Iowa, putting up 62 points in two victories as Penn State’s offensive coordinator the past two years.

The Bulldogs go as well as quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and the run game go. With a stuff rate rank of 13th and an opportunity rate rank of second, Mississippi State can also have a successful passing attack when Fitzgerald is able to gain yards on the ground. Iowa will have problems on defense owning the trench, ranking 107th in stuff rate and 75th in opportunity rate.

Iowa will be playing without one of quarterback Nate Stanley’s favorite targets, as tight end Noah Fant has declared for the NFL Draft and will sit out the bowl. Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz does not have plans for a different scheme, electing to line up with two tight end sets during this game.

The Bulldogs are 13th in the nation in defensive pass efficiency with a top 20 rank in sack rate. Points should be hard to find in this early kick on New Year’s Day, but with Mississippi State ranking first and fifth in offensive and defensive finishing drives, the Bulldogs are the side to back.

Collin’s Pick: Mississippi State -7