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Gator Bowl betting preview and pick

In one of three Big Ten-SEC battles of this bowl season 9-3 Northwestern goes against 8-4 Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl New Year's Day in Jacksonville (noon ET, ESPN2).

The early Gator Bowl odds were listing the Bulldogs, who started 7-0 this season but have lost four of their last five games, as two-point favorites over the Wildcats, who finished 5-3 in the Big Ten, each of their losses coming after giving up fourth-quarter leads.

Mississippi State is 5-1 ATS in its past 6 bowl games, while Northwestern comes in riding a profitable 3-1 ATS bowl record. [ More Gator Bowl betting stats, matchup data and more ]

View Northwestern vs Mississippi State Odds and Stats.

Betting Line: On the opening line for this matchup, the Bulldogs sat as 2.5-point favorites, according to 5Dimes. The total, meanwhile, was 51.5 in early bowl betting at Bovada.

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Northwestern Bowl History


Year Bowl Team1 Score Team2 Score Team2Line ATS win
1995 Rose Bowl Southern Cal 41 Northwestern 32 3 USC
1996 Capital One Bowl Tennessee 48 Northwestern 28 9 TENN
2000 Alamo Bowl Nebraska 66 Northwestern 17 14.5 NEBR
2003 Motor City Bowl Northwestern 24 Bowling Green 28 -7.5 NWESTN
2005 Sun Bowl Northwestern 38 UCLA 50 -3 UCLA
2008 Alamo Bowl Northwestern 23 Missouri 30 -14 NWESTN
2009 Outback Bowl Northwestern 35 Auburn 38 -9 NWESTN
2010 Ticket City Bowl Northwestern 38 Texas Tech 45 -7.5 NWESTN
2011 Meineke Car Care Bowl Texas A&M 33 Northwestern 22 9.5 TEXA&M

Mississippi State Bowl History


Year Bowl Team1 Score Team2 Score Team2Line ATS win
1998 Cotton Bowl Mississippi State 11 Texas 38 -6.5 TEXAS
1999 Chick-Fil-A Bowl Clemson 7 Mississippi State 17 -2.5 MIS.ST
2000 Independence Bowl Mississippi State 43 Texas A&M 41 -1 MIS.ST
2007 Liberty Bowl Central Florida 3 Mississippi State 10 3 MIS.ST
2010 Gator Bowl Michigan 14 Mississippi State 52 -3 MIS.ST
2011 Music City Bowl Wake Forest 17 Mississippi State 23 -7 WAKE

How They Match Up:
Offensively, the game matches up Mississippi State's No. 56-ranked offense (30.2 PPG) against a Wildcats defense that ranks No. 31 at 22.8 PPG. The Bulldogs passing attack has averaged 248.8 yards per game, less than the Wildcats give up through the air (262.6 YPG on average).

Defensively, the Wildcats feature the league's No. 33-rated road run defense, allowing 137.6 yards per game. Mississippi State, meanwhile, ranks No. 63 in rushing offense at home.

Northwestern was a 50-14 winner in their most recent outing at home against Illinois. They covered the 19-point spread as favorites, while the total score (64) made winners of OVER bettors. Venric Mark tore up the turf for 127 rushing yards in the latest Wildcats game, a 50-14 win over the Fighting Illini at Ryan Field.

Mississippi State lost its last outing, a 41-24 result against Mississippi on November 24. Mississippi State failed to cover in that game as a 1-point underdog, while the 65 combined points took the game OVER the total. Chad Bumphis was good for 146 receiving yards in the Bulldogs's most recent action, but while it helped his stats, it didn’t help his team to victory and they fell 41-24 to the Bulldogs.

Northwestern Wildcats Trends:
When playing in January are 0-4
When playing on grass are 7-3
After outgaining opponent are 8-2
When an underdog on the road are 4-6

Mississippi State Bulldogs Trends:
When playing in January are 1-1
When playing on grass are 7-3
After being outgained are 6-4
When favored at home are 10-0

A few Wildcats at Bulldogs trends to consider:
Northwestern is 9-3 SU in its last 12 games
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Northwestern's last 6 games
Mississippi State is 10-4 SU in its last 14 games
Mississippi State is 1-4 ATS in its last 5 games
Mississippi State is 1-4 SU in its last 5 games