(7) Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. (12) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Wednesday – December 31 – 7:00 pm
Sun Life Stadium – Miami
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Season highlights: There were plenty of big plays along the way this year, from Justin Thomas’ touchdown pass with 23 seconds remaining to beat Georgia Southern to D.J. White’s fourth-quarter interception vs. Virginia Tech to the defense’s two pick-sixes against Clemson. But the plays Tech will remember the most are Harrison Butker’s 53-yard kick as time expired to send the game against Georgia to overtime and White’s interception on the Bulldogs’ next drive to win it. It was the first time Tech had beaten its in-state rival since 2008.
Players to watch: Thomas has sparked the Georgia Tech offense all season, throwing for 17 touchdowns and running for five more, but he will be without leading receiver DeAndre Smelter, who suffered a torn ACL against Georgia. Linebacker Quayshawn Nealy has been the leader of a ball hawking defense. Running backs Zach Laskey and Synjyn Days are the forces behind Tech’s ground game.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Quarterback Dak Prescott, a semifinalist for the Walter Camp Award who finished eighth in Heisman Trophy balloting, said Mullen was just making sure the team was prepared for anything, regardless of what they have seen on film and what they have done during the season. Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen berated his team at the end of practice. He tore into them like they were sitting in the principal’s office for doing something wrong. He had a red face, was screaming at them and pointing fingers. He then dismissed his team and walked off of the practice field. “You have to be completely prepared to play this game and that includes mentally,” Mullen said. “It’s the mental focus and attention that decides who wins and who loses many games. We had to make sure that our team was mentally focused today and put them in positions that they do not want to be in.” This is the true make up for the Bulldogs who started the season on an 8 win run before becoming relaxed towards the end of the season.”
Player to watch: Want to know how Prescott feels about next year? Just watch him in this game. The former Heisman contender took a significant step back the second half of the season, but he never lost what made him special. He’s still a big, strong, mobile quarterback who can throw the deep ball and run between the tackles. But if he wants to begin next year as a Heisman hopeful and put himself in serious first-round NFL draft consideration, he needs to start with some momentum in the bowl game. Prescott needs to take care of the football and show once again that he’s a quarterback capable of taking over and winning football games. Last year he got the ball rolling with five touchdowns against Rice. Can he do it again in this year’s Capital One Orange Bowl?
Prediction: Mississippi State 40 – Georgia Tech 31