It should come as a surprise that outspoken Mississippi State coach Mike Leach has been making headlines leading into a bowl game against one of his former teams.
Leach claims Texas Tech still owes him money after firing him in 2009 for alleged mistreatment of a player. He also criticized pro-prospect players who opt out of bowl games to protect themselves from possible injury.
Another thing that isn’t a surprise is that the Bulldogs lead all major-college programs with an average of 54.3 passing attempts per game. Ironically, the last time a Leach-coached team didn’t lead the nation in that category came in 2016, when Texas Tech was the national leader.
Texas Tech hasn’t won a bowl game since 2013, while Mississippi State has won four of their last six post-season appearances.
Texas Tech has allowed 22.7 points in its six wins and 41.5 points in the six losses.
Texas Tech topped its expected win total of 4½ with three of the wins coming in conference play. The two biggest wins of the season came against Houston in the season opener and Iowa State, the latter when the Red Raiders were listed by the college football odds as 13-point underdogs.
- Game: Mississippi State (7-5) vs. Texas Tech (6-6)
- Location: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, Tennessee
- Day/Time: Tuesday, December 28, 6:45 p.m. ET
- Television: ESPN
Mississippi State vs Texas Tech Betting Lines
|Mississippi State||-9½ (-110)||-340||59½ (-110u)|
|Texas Tech||+9½ (-110)||+280||59½ (-110o)|
Polk catching on with Mississippi State Bulldogs
Makai Polk seemed to be on the verge of something big when he closed out his freshman season for the University if California with multiple catches in each of the last five games. Included was his first 100-yard receiving day (in a bowl win over Illinois) after managing just three catches in the first five games of the season.
Cal only played four games in 2020 because of the pandemic, but Polk finished second on the team with 17 catches and 183 yards. After that season, Polk headed to SEC Land.
If the Richmond, California, native was underutilized by the Cal coaching staff, that was not an issue at pass-happy Mississippi State.
Polk had games of 10, 11, eight, and 13 receptions in the first five contests of the season. He is headed into the bowl game two catches shy of 100 and 11 yards shy of 1000 in 2021.
Since 2009, the only SEC players with more than 100 catches in a season are DeVonta Smith, Justin Jefferson, Amari Cooper, and Jordan Matthews. What else do those four players have in common? They either played or are currently playing in the NFL.
It is too early to tell if Polk gets to the pros, but he certainly should join them in the 100-catch club.
The total listed by the Las Vegas odds have gone over in four of Mississippi State’s last five games.
Receivers Christian Ford, Malik Heath, Rara Thomas, and kicker Brandon Ruiz are questionable. Offensive lineman Charles Cross has opted out of the bowl game to prepare for the NFL draft.
Three Players to Watch
Quarterback Will Rogers has completed 75.1% of his passes for 4451 yards (35 touchdowns) and Polk leads the SEC with 98 catches. Cornerback Emmanuel Forbes leads the team with three interceptions and five pass breakups. He is also the team leader with 40 solo tackles.
Look for more running back by committee approach for Texas Tech
Interim coach Sonny Cumbie is running the show while he’s also the new coach at Louisiana Tech.
A quick look at the Big 12 leaders would lead somebody to believe that the Texas Tech Red Raiders simply refuse to run the ball.
While it is true that the Red Raiders are one of two conference teams with fewer than 400 rushing attempts, their average of 32.7 rushing attempts per game isn’t that far off the Big 12 average.
There are 13 Big 12 players who rushed for at least 500 yards, none of them for Texas Tech. That likely wouldn’t have been the case had Tahj Brooks not missed four games and if SaRodorick Thompson hadn’t been limited to 10 contests.
Four different Red Raiders have at least 50 carries and seven players have rushing touchdowns. Texas Tech is 4-2 when rushing for more than 150 yards this season so it won’t be surprising to Tech approach that 32/33 carries per game figure.
Mississippi State isn’t the easiest team to run against as they average just 101.2 rushing yards allowed per game, ranking 10th nationally.
Texas Tech is 1-5 against the college football spreads in the last six games against SEC competition.
Linebacker Brandon Bouyer-Randle, receiver Loic Fouonji and Myles Price (ankle), and tight end Travis Koontz are questionable. Quarterback Tyler Shough (collarbone) is out. Offensive lineman Ethan Carde (leg), running back Chadarius Townsend (chest), and defensive back Marquis Waters (pectoral) are out for the season.
Three Players to Watch
Receiver Erik Ezukanma leads Tech with 48 catches and 705 receiving yards. Defensive lineman Tyree Wilson had 11.5 tackles for loss. Kicker Jonathan Garibay is 13-for-14 on field goals, including a game-winning 62-yard kick against Iowa State.
After a 3-for-3 performance against Wyoming, @BroncoSportsFB‘s @JonahD17771252 has now made 14-straight field goals, the fourth-longest active streak nationally. He ranks second nationally in field goals per game and is tied for 12th nationally in scoring. pic.twitter.com/7XTjynSgxA
— Lou Groza Award (@LouGrozaAward) November 19, 2021
Betting on the Game
Mississippi State Bulldogs love being a frontrunner as they are 6-2 in the last eight games when listed as a favorite.
Mississippi State had 10 interceptions in the first eight games, helping the Bulldogs get off to a 5-3 start but have just one interception in the last four games.
The total has gone under in four of Texas Tech’s last six games.
Texas Tech is 1-5 in its last six games when listed as an underdog which could be of interest to those who bet online.
Only four FBS teams are below Texas Tech in time of possession as the Red Raiders have the ball for less than 28 minutes per game.