Texas Tech vs. Mississippi State Odds, Picks: Bet the Bulldogs in Liberty Bowl (Tuesday, December 28)
Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images and John E. Moore III/Getty Images. Pictured, from left: Mississippi State Bulldogs wide receiver Lideatrick Griffin (5) and Texas Tech Red Raiders linebacker Bryce Ramirez (54).
Texas Tech vs. Mississippi State Odds
|Texas Tech Odds|
-108o / -112u
|Mississippi State Odds|
-108o / -112u
Give me Liberty (Bowl), or give me death!
This time of the year, bowl games are all about motivation and storylines. Well, I don’t know if any bowl game has a juicier storyline than the Liberty Bowl. The story of this game is the thing that motivates human beings more than just about any other thing in the world: money.
For those who don’t know, Mississippi State’s Mike Leach was the head coach at Texas Tech from 2000-09. In 10 seasons under Leach, the Red Raiders went 84-43, the most wins in school history. They won at least seven games and earned a bowl bid in every season.
However, following the 2009 season, Leach was fired by Texas Tech for refusing to issue an apology to a player he was accused of mistreating. Texas Tech claimed he was fired for cause, but Leach sued the school, claiming he was still owed $2.5 million.
That gives Leach and his Bulldogs 2.5 million reasons to care about this game.
And if you think this is all water under the bridge for the Pirate King, when asked about it last week he said, “They still owe me for 2009, the last time they won nine games. Maybe they’ll deliver the check.”
On the field, Leach led his Mississippi State squad to a 7-5 record in his second year at the helm. The staple of Leach’s offense is his spread-out Air Raid offense.
The Air Raid offense is a scheme that uses four wide receivers, one running back and the quarterback in shotgun. It utilizes no-huddle and the combination of deep routes with shallow crossing patterns. It almost exclusively results in a passing play.
For the Bulldogs, specifically, they have the highest passing rate in the country, throwing the ball 54.3 times per game and averaging just 20.83 rushing attempts.
The key to running the Air Raid successfully is having an accurate quarterback who can get the ball out quick and complete high-percentage throws.
Well, no quarterback in the country had a higher completion percentage this year than Will Rogers’ 75.1% rate. Rogers finished third in the country with 370.9 passing yards per game and tossed 35 touchdowns to just eight interceptions.
Mississippi State ranks fifth in the country in Passing Success Rate, and top wide receivers Makai Polk, Jaden Walley and Austin Williams are all expected to play in the bowl game.
Will Rogers airs it out to Makai Polk for the @HailStateFB TD 🎯 pic.twitter.com/47bgAKOLSW
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 23, 2021
Some teams take a bend-don’t-break defensive approach, but for the Mississippi State defense, it’s almost been the opposite. On a down-to-down basis, it’s been solid, ranking top-50 in both Rushing Success and Passing Success on defense. The Bulldogs are also fourth in the SEC in total yards allowed per game.
Yet, the Dawgs are ninth in the conference in scoring defense. They sit 86th in the country in Finishing Drives on defense.
A big issue for this is Mississippi State’s poor special teams unit. It ranks 124th in special teams, per SP+, and allows an average of 20.5 yards per punt return, the second-worst mark in the country. This gives teams a lot of short fields to work with.
The defense doesn’t create a ton of pressure, and linebacker Tyrus Wheat is the only player who has really done damage in the backfield. But Mississippi State does a great job at preventing big plays, ranking 15th in the country.
In the secondary, a pair of corners led the Bulldogs this season, and defensive back Emmanuel Forbes will be a key factor in this game against the Texas Tech passing attack. He was named second-team All-SEC and has three interceptions this season and eight in his career.
It looks like only two Bulldogs have opted out of the Liberty Bowl, but they are big ones. Left tackle and projected first-round pick Charles Cross has declared for the NFL Draft, as has cornerback Martin Emerson.
In the 12 seasons since Leach was fired from Texas Tech, the Red Raiders have gone just 70-77 while shuffling through three head coaches.
Matt Wells was fired mid-year in just his third season in Lubbock after a 5-3 start. The team finished 6-6 but reached a bowl game for the first time since 2017. Now, the coaching situation for the Liberty Bowl is probably a bit awkward for all parties involved.
Texas Tech hired former Baylor associate head coach Joey Maguire as its new head coach for next season. However, interim coach Sonny Cumbie will still serve as head coach in the bowl game despite the fact that he has already accepted the head coaching job at Louisiana Tech.
Quarterback Tyler Shough transferred to Tech from Oregon and helped the Red Raiders to a 3-0 start before an injury in the Big 12 opener ended his season. Henry Colombi took over and started the next five games before he too went down with a season-ending injury.
Redshirt freshman Donovan Smith started the final three games and is expected to start the bowl game. Despite finishing the year 1-2 in his starts, he did show some flashes. Smith threw for 322 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Iowa State to reach bowl eligibility.
Texas Tech will be without leading receiver Erik Ezukanma, who is opting out, but should have everybody else. Sophomore Myles Price had nine catches for 175 yards and a touchdown from Smith against Iowa State, and tight end Travis Koontz put up 117 yards and a touchdown in the season finale against Baylor.
The Red Raiders don’t run the ball a ton, but when they do, they use a committee of Tahj Brooks, SaRodorick Thompson, and Xavier White. Smith has the ability to use his legs a bit as well.
When they can run the ball well, it has led to results. They’ve gone over 170 yards rushing five times this season and have won four of those games.
Stop me if you have heard this before, but defense has not been the strength for this Red Raiders team. It allowed 410.8 total yards per game (91st) and gave up 32.1 points per contest (104th).
Mississippi State and this Air Raid offense could present a tough matchup for a Tech defense that sits 112th in Pass Success Rate. It’s allowed 28 passing touchdowns this season — only five teams in the country gave up more.
Texas Tech ranks 126th in Finishing Drives on defense and is outside of the top 90 in Havoc, tackling, and coverage grade.
Despite the struggles against the pass, cornerback DaMarcus Fields was named second-team All-Big 12 after leading the conference with 10 pass breakups.
The biggest edge Texas Tech will have in this game is on special teams. The Raiders rank fifth in the country in special teams, per SP+. Kicker Jonathan Garibay earned named first-team All-Big 12 honors after leading the conference in field goal percentage, and punter Austin McNamara finished as a second-teamer.
Texas Tech vs. Mississippi State Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Texas Tech and Mississippi State match up statistically:
Texas Tech Offense vs. Mississippi State Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Mississippi State Offense vs. Texas Tech Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Pace of Play / Other
|SP+ Special Teams||5||124|
|Plays per Minute||71||74|
|Rush Rate||52.1% (86)||27.7% (130)|
Texas Tech vs. Mississippi State Betting Pick
When it comes to bowl games, predicting the motivation edge is half the battle. That edge clearly lies with the Bulldogs here. Leach believes he’s owed $2.5 million from when Texas Tech fired him, and you’d be hard-pressed to find better motivation than millions of dollars.
For Texas Tech, it will be led by an interim head coach that has already accepted another job and has one foot out the door. The Red Raiders went just 1-4 in their last five games, while Mississippi State won four of its last six.
From a football standpoint, this is also a great matchup for the Bulldogs. Their fifth-ranked passing offense should have a field day against a Texas Tech defense that is 112th in defending the pass.
Over the last five games, teams averaged 322.8 passing yards with 14 passing touchdowns against the Red Raiders defense.
Teams completed 66.8% of their passes against Texas Tech’s defense, and Rogers should have no problem doing what he has done all year while picking apart this secondary.
Mississippi State finished 7-5 against the spread this season and 4-1 ATS away from Starkville. The motivation is there, and the matchup really favors the Bulldogs’ passing attack. Break out the Cowbells and lay the -10.
Pick: Mississippi State -10
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