Gator Bowl Free Picks: Mississippi State vs. Michigan 1/1/11

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The Mississippi State Bulldogs and Michigan Wolverines are back in a bowl game this year, and the two will be looking for a massive victory in the Sunshine State on New Year's afternoon at the Gator Bowl.

Gator Bowl Matchup: Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Michigan Wolverines
Date: Saturday, January 1st, 1:30 ET
Location: Ever Bank Stadium, Jacksonville, FL
Gator Bowl Line: Mississippi State -4.5
Over/Under 60

Bulldogs Notes: There's not a team in the country that had a more interesting year than the Bulldogs, who fought hard in the SEC to finish at 8-4 on the season. They really did compete with the "Big Four" in the West Division, the Auburn Tigers, Alabama Crimson Tide, Arkansas Razorbacks, and LSU Tigers, and though they were defeated in all four games, they did beat all of the teams on their slate from the East Division. This is an old school SEC team that runs smash mouth ball and plays rock solid defense. RB Vick Ballard has rumbled the ball 167 times for 905 yards and a whopping 17 TDs this year, and when he gets near the end zone, it feels like an automatic six points. QB Chris Relf threw for 1,495 yards in his first year leading this offense, but he is going to probably be without his top receiver, WR Chad Bumphis, who caught 44 balls for 634 yards on the campaign. Instead, Relf will have to us his legs in this one, as he rushed for 671 yards and four scores. RB LaDarius Perkins rumbled for 526 yards on 92 carries and will be used quite a bit in this one as well. The defense for Mississippi State was really the last team to hold down Auburn Tigers QB Cam Newton. Only the Arkansas Razorbacks put more than 30 on this team this year. The squad only allowed 348.2 yards and 20.3 points per game for the season.

Wolverines Notes: Is this a game for the job of Head Coach Rich Rodriguez? The buzzards are swarming right now in Ann Arbor, and even though the Wolverines didn't collapse and fail to miss a bowl game the same way that they did last year, they didn't exactly play well down the stretch either, losing five of their last seven games. The defense was absolutely horrendous at times, allowing 65 to the Illinois Fighting Illini, 48 to the Wisconsin Badgers, and 41 to the Penn State Nittany Lions. The unit ranked No. 104 in the nation at 432.7 yards per game and was No. 102 in scoring at 33.8 points per game. Offensively, averaging 501.3 yards per game was one of the top marks in the nation, but we have to face the fact that this really was a one man band. QB Denard Robinson accounted for almost 4,000 total yards of offense this season, throwing for 2,316 yards and rushing for 1,643 yards. He did miss pieces of games this year, and if he gets injured, there isn't going to be another signal caller to trust, as QB Tate Forcier is academically ineligible. Robinson threw for 16 TDs and rushed for 14 scores, but he really sort of fell apart down the stretch and went from a Heisman Trophy favorite to a man that wasn't even considered as a finalist.

The Final Word: Still, Robinson is a man that refuses to lose at times. He won't quite get the job done, but he can keep the Wolverines inside of this number. Mississippi State is very deserving of a bowl win, and it won't be concerning to anyone in Starkville if this one is won, but not covered. The Dogs will be victorious, but the key to beating the Gator Bowl odds is going with the Wolverines.

Gator Bowl Free Pick: Michigan +4.5
Gator Bowl Prediction: Mississippi State 34 – Michigan 31

Lou Palumbo is the founder and part owner of the Sports Handicapping Community. He's been writing and posting free picks and sports handicapping strategies on the Cappersinfo forums and website for 15 years now. He enjoys handicapping just as much as he did from the very first day he built the original Cappersinfo website.

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