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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.

Northwestern Bowl History

YearBowlTeam1ScoreTeam2ScoreTeam2LineATS win
1995Rose BowlSouthern Cal41Northwestern323USC
1996Capital One BowlTennessee48Northwestern289TENN
2000Alamo BowlNebraska66Northwestern1714.5NEBR
2003Motor City BowlNorthwestern24Bowling Green28-7.5NWESTN
2005Sun BowlNorthwestern38UCLA50-3UCLA
2008Alamo BowlNorthwestern23Missouri30-14NWESTN
2009Outback BowlNorthwestern35Auburn38-9NWESTN
2010Ticket City BowlNorthwestern38Texas Tech45-7.5NWESTN
2011Meineke Car Care BowlTexas A&M33Northwestern229.5TEXA&M

Mississippi State Bowl History

YearBowlTeam1ScoreTeam2ScoreTeam2LineATS win
1998Cotton BowlMississippi State11Texas38-6.5TEXAS
1999Chick-Fil-A BowlClemson7Mississippi State17-2.5MIS.ST
2000Independence BowlMississippi State43Texas A&M41-1MIS.ST
2007Liberty BowlCentral Florida3Mississippi State103MIS.ST
2010Gator BowlMichigan14Mississippi State52-3MIS.ST
2011Music City BowlWake Forest17Mississippi State23-7WAKE

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