Illinois vs Mississippi State Odds, Picks | How to Bet ReliaQuest Bowl

Illinois vs Mississippi State Odds, Picks | How to Bet ReliaQuest Bowl article feature image

Jonathan Bachman and Michael Reaves/Getty Images. Pictured from left: Rufus Harvey (82) of Mississippi State and Pat Bryant (13) of Illinois.

Illinois vs Mississippi State Odds

Monday, January 2
12 p.m. ET
Illinois Odds
-110 / -110
Mississippi State Odds
-110 / -110
Odds via Caesars. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

The Mississippi State Bulldogs and Illinois Fighting Illini meet in Tampa, FL for the ReliaQuest Bowl on Monday at noon ET.

There will be a somber tone overtop this game following the death of Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach. The players decided they wanted to play in this game to honor him, so the emotions will be at an all-time high on the Mississippi State sideline.

Illinois had its best season in more than a decade, winning eight games and cracking the AP Top 25. Illinois defensive coordinator, Ryan Walters, has already left to take the head-coaching job at Purdue, and a bunch of opt-outs have followed.

So, Illinois comes into this bowl game without most of its best players.

Illinois Fighting Illini

Fighting Illini Offense

Illinois has been really average offensively this season, averaging only 5.0 yards per play and ranking 63rd in EPA/Play.

Illinois runs the ball on 58.8% of its offensive plays but really isn't that successful in doing so. It averages 4.2 yards per carry and ranks 84th in Rushing Success Rate and 106th in EPA/Rush.

Reggie Love III will be the main back for this game, and he had a pretty decent season in limited action. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry on 59 attempts and posted an 83 PFF rushing grade.


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Quarterback Tommy DeVito actually had a solid season throwing the ball. He averaged 7.1 yards per attempt and recorded an 81.0 PFF passing grade with a 78% adjusted completion percentage.

DeVito plays best from a clean pocket. When he's not under pressure, his PFF passing grade sits at 86.0, and he's averaging 7.5 yards per attempt. When he is under pressure, however, his PFF passing grade drops to 57.0, and his yards per attempt drops to 5.2.

Since Mississippi State doesn't have a great pass rush, DeVito should be able to find some success.

Fighting Illini Defense

Illinois had one of the best defenses in the country this season, but the team will be coming into the ReliaQuest Bowl shorthanded.

As mentioned, defensive coordinator Walters has left to become Purdue's head coach. And on top of that, the nation's leading secondary in yards per pass attempt allowed has already had two of its best members — Devon Witherspoon and Sydney Brown — opt out of this game.

The front seven, though, remains intact and has done a fantastic job putting pressure on the quarterback. Illinois ranks third in Havoc and has a top-40 pass-rushing grade, per PFF.

Rogers has a 39.8 PFF passing grade when under pressure, so it will be crucial for the Illini to generate pressure since it's thin in the secondary.

Illinois is also the No. 1 defense in the country in Finishing Drives Allowed, but it's hard to imagine the Illini maintaining that without two of their best defensive players and defensive coordinator.

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Mississippi State Bulldogs

Bulldogs Offense

Mississippi State is the most pass-heavy offense in college football, which was a staple of Leach throughout his entire career.

The Bulldogs throw the ball on 74.7% of their offensive plays, and they've been pretty successful in doing so this season, as they're 26th in Passing Success Rate. However, they don't take too many deep shots down the field and rank 131st in passing explosiveness.

Will Rogers has been a very average quarterback this season, and he's averaging only 6.5 yards per attempt with a 72.5 PFF passing grade.

More than 70% of his throws travel 10 yards or less in the air, and he has better than an 87% adjusted completion rate on those throws. But again, his PFF passing grade isn't above 73 on those throws.

When Mississippi State does decide to run the ball, the team isn't very effective. The Bulldogs average only 3.2 yards per carry while ranking 74th in EPA/Rush.

Bulldogs Defense

Mississippi State's defense has been quite good this season, allowing only 5.3 yards per play and ranked 34th in EPA/Play allowed.

It's going to have to stop the run in this game if it wants to contain Illinois. The Bulldogs have done a pretty average job up front, giving up 4.3 yards per carry while ranking 40th in Rushing Success Rate Allowed but only 86th in explosive rushing allowed.

The good news for them in this matchup is that star Illini running back Chase Brown has opted out of this game. Illinois hasn't been a very successful rushing offense with him, so it's hard to imagine much improvement with Brown out of the picture.

The secondary for Mississippi State has been pretty good this season, ranking 37th in Passing Success Rate Allowed and 40th in EPA/Pass Allowed while owning the 19th-best coverage grade, per PFF.

However, the biggest problem that Mississippi State has faced this season is its inability to generate a pass rush. The Bulldogs are 82nd in sack percentage and 123rd in terms of pass-rushing grade, per PFF.

DeVito thrives from a clean pocket, so Mississippi State might be in trouble.

Illinois vs Mississippi State Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Illinois and Mississippi State match up statistically:

Mississippi State Offense vs Illinois Defense
Rush Success482
Line Yards356
Pass Success264
Pass Blocking**3439
Finishing Drives301
** Pass Blocking (Off) vs Pass Rush (Def)

Illinois Offense vs Mississippi State Defense
Rush Success8440
Line Yards8634
Pass Success3837
Pass Blocking**35123
Finishing Drives10538
** Pass Blocking (Off) vs. Pass Rush (Def)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling5240
PFF Coverage192
SP+ Special Teams6137
Seconds per Play25.3 (42)26.9 (81)
Rush Rate31.7% (130)58.8% (26)
Data via (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics

Illinois vs Mississippi State Pick

This is a really difficult situation for Mississippi State. Losing their head coach so suddenly is going to be weighing on these players.

Separating the emotions of the game from the actual matchup, I think the total is a tad low here. Illinois will be going up against the most pass-happy Power Five offense in the country without its two best players in the secondary and its defensive coordinator. That's not a good recipe.

The flip side is DeVito is an outstanding quarterback with a clean pocket, and Mississippi State's inability to generate a pass rush will allow him to pick apart the secondary. Plus, Love is a very capable running back, so there won't be a massive drop-off for Illinois without Brown.

Our Action Network projections have the total at 49.9, so I like the value on  over 45.5 points.

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