Y'all ready for this? oonts oonts oonts oonts
So you know this already because I'm slightly late because I thought they'd embargo the news until the "Bowl Selection Specials" about to drop on the teevees, but Michigan is going to play Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl. Press release:
Football to Face #21 Mississippi State in 2011 Gator Bowl on New Year’s Day
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The University of Michigan football program will participate in the 40th bowl game in program history, facing No. 21 Mississippi State University in the 2011 Gator Bowl played at EverBank Field on New Year’s Day 2011. The game will kick off at 1:30 p.m. EST and will be nationally-televised by ESPN2.
“We are excited about representing the Big Ten Conference in the Gator Bowl,” said Athletic Director Dave Brandon. “Our players, coaches and football support staff have worked hard all season and this is a great reward for them. We have great alumni and fan support in the Sunshine State and I anticipate a large Michigan contingent in Jacksonville.”
This will be the third time that Michigan has played in the Gator Bowl. The Wolverines’ initial appearance came on Dec. 28, 1976, a 17-15 loss to North Carolina. Michigan evened its Gator Bowl mark with a dominating 35-3 victory over Mississippi on Jan. 1, 1991.
The Wolverines (7-5, 3-5 Big Ten) will face the Bulldogs (8-4, 4-4 SEC) for the first time. This will be the 30th time that Michigan faces a SEC school (23-5-1 record all-time), with the Wolverines compiling a 7-3 mark against the conference in bowl games.
This is the first year of a four-year agreement between the Big Ten, SEC and the Gator Bowl. Visit www.gatorbowl.com for more information on the 2011 Gator Bowl.
The Wolverines have compiled a 19-20 record in bowl games and will be looking to even their mark with a victory in the Gator Bowl.
Ticket Information: The U-M Athletic Ticket Office will begin selling tickets to the 2011 Gator Bowl on Monday, Dec. 6, at 8:30 a.m. EST. Tickets range from $60 to $125, and will be assigned based on the Victors Club priority point program. Fans can purchase tickets online at MGoBlue.com/tickets or by calling the ticket office at 866-296-MTIX or 734-764-0247.
Alumni Tour: The Alumni Association is taking reservations for the official University of Michigan Bowl tour at 877-513-2320 or http://www.michigansportstours.com. PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS TOUR WILL INCLUDE GAME TICKETS. You can also find information about the U-M bowl pep rally featuring the team, marching band and cheerleaders and a pre-game tailgate at www.umalumni.com or by calling 800-847-4764.
Comments from Michigan Head Coach Rich Rodriguez
About playing in the Gator Bowl … “We are excited about the opportunity to play a very good Mississippi State team in the Gator Bowl. They run a first-class operation and our players will really enjoy the experience. I’ve always enjoyed my previous experiences at the Gator Bowl.”
About playing Mississippi State … “Mississippi State is a great team and has been consistently ranked among the top 25 this season. Dan Mullen and his staff have done an outstanding job. It should be a great matchup and we look forward to playing them on New Year’s Day.”
About his past trips to the Gator Bowl … “I have been fortunate to have coached in several Gator Bowls and I also played in it. They do a great job of hosting the teams and making the bowl experience a memorable one for the players. I look forward to seeing many of the Gator Bowl representatives who have become friends over the years.”
So instead of Florida's dysfunctional offense and loads of talent Michigan gets the offensive braintrust behind the Gators' most recent run and… not so much talent. As far as matchups go, I actually watched that 10-7 MSU win over Florida earlier in the year, and in that game the number of passing attempts the Bulldogs put up in the second half was either zero or one. I can't remember exactly. They're 91st in pass offense but decent in efficiency because they have a run-pass breakdown nearing Pat White WVU territory—with 561 runs against just 265 passes, MSU runs 68% of the time.
Starting quarterback Chris Relf had to fend off a challenge from Tyler Russell early in the year; Relf is a dual threat sort, Russell a pocket passer. Relf's MSU's second leading rusher with almost 700 yards. Vick Ballard and LaDarius Perkins are both over 500 yards as well, with Ballard the clear preference near the goal line with 16 touchdowns. They run an offense similar to Illinois, with a lot of triple option. The rush offense is 16th nationally but only averaging 4.6 YPC—not bad, but not awesome.
An extremely rush-oriented team with a somewhat erratic quarterback is as close to a "good" matchup as Michigan's broken defense will get. So we've got that going for us.
Their defense is good against the run—they're giving up just 3.5 YPC—but not so good against the pass, at least in terms of yardage. They're 89th in yardage but 50th in efficiency.
As far as their season went, they were 8-4 but their best nonconference game was against 5-7 CUSA team Houston and they narrowly escaped from their game against UAB by kicking a couple of fourth quarter field goals to win by five. In the SEC they missed Vandy, South Carolina, and Tennessee but went up against the loaded west. Games against LSU and Alabama did not go well but they were the only team to hold Auburn under a billion points in a 17-14 loss; they also took Arkansas to double overtime.
FEI has them 33rd, with Michigan 47th. S&P, which tends to favor explosive plays, has Michigan 30th and Mississippi State 35th. By the numbers it's an even matchup. More tomorrow.