Although the 8th ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs and 10th ranked Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are coming off tough losses, both teams have had surprisingly successful seasons and are traveling to Miami to square off in the Orange Bowl as a result. Dan Mullen and Paul Johnson have each had “Coach of the Year” caliber campaigns, and when the teams take the field, the collective eyes of the college football world will be firmly locked on Sun Life Stadium.
Johnson and the Yellow Jackets have made it to Miami on the heels of yet another ACC Coastal Division title, and will compete in Georgia Tech’s seventh Orange Bowl. At the beginning of the season, many were complaining that the triple-option attack was archaic, and had Johnson on the hot seat, but look who’s laughing now. Wins against rivals Georgia and Clemson solidified the Jackets as a legitimate “New Year’s Six” contender, and a strong showing against undefeated Florida State in the ACC Championship Game was enough to earn the trip to South Florida.
Still, it’s not all sunshine and citrus for the Yellow Jackets, as Tech will face an impressive Bulldogs squad that was the No. 1 team in the nation earlier this season. Quarterback Dak Prescott jumped out to a strong early Heisman candidacy, and although his numbers, and Mississippi State’s ability to win big games, dropped off late in the season, he had an amazing campaign. What State was able to accomplish this year was a direct result of Prescott’s maturation as a quarterback under the tutelage of Mullen, and a complete buy-in by the players and staff into the system that, while at times isn’t pretty, sure is effective.
While Tech’s ability to stop Prescott and weapons like De’Runnya Wilson and Josh Robinson is pivotal, it is perhaps the inverse matchup, Georgia Tech’s option offense against Mississippi State’s aggressive defense will be the focal point of the game. When it comes to defending an option team, time is a defense’s best friend. Mississippi State just lost the “Minister of Mayhem,” defensive coordinator Geoff Collins, to the University of Florida, but will have nearly a month to prepare for the assignment football that comes with guarding the triple-option. If the Bulldogs can stay disciplined while maintaining the “attack” mentality that carried them through the year, Mississippi State should be able to prevail in a closely contested matchup. If not, expect a barn-burner that could come down to whichever team has the ball last.
Final Score: Mississippi State 34, Georgia Tech 27