LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (7-5) vs. MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS (6-6)
Game Time: 4 p.m.
Location: Nissan Stadium: Nashville, Tenn.
Announcers: Tom Hard, Jordan Rodgers and Cole Cubelic
Favorite: Mississippi State by 4
All-Time Series: Mississippi State leads 3-2
Last Meeting: Mississippi State won 31-27 in the 2017 TaxSlayer Bowl on 12/30/17
Louisville Bowl History:
Louisville Depth Chart:
About Mississippi State:
The Mississippi State Bulldogs had a big moment on their hands a couple of years ago when Dan Mullen left to be the head coach at Florida. They needed to find a guy that could win games while coaching in Starksville. Mullen was great at overcoming the odds and they needed someone that could do the same. Joe Moorehead was a strong choice as he had led a Penn State offense that killed everyone and had head coaching experience in his past. The results have been very mixed but Moorehead has done a good enough job to get his team to a bowl game this year even though they’ve had some issues in key positions.
The Bulldogs had to replace Nick Fitzgerald but they seemed to have the right guy in Keytaon Thompson. Thompson beat Louisville in their bowl matchup in 2017 but for whatever reason, Moorehead felt that he needed a grad transfer addition and he signed Tommy Stevens who played for him at PSU. Moorhead also signed a highly rated freshman in Garrett Shrader which rounded out a very solid quarterback room. Even with all of the talent and experience the Dogs had this year, the quarterback position has been the most volatile.
Thompson somehow ended up third on the depth chart this fall and entered the transfer portal for a short time. He decided to stick with MSU but hasn’t done anything this year outside of catching a pass in the Egg Bowl as a wide receiver. Tommy Stevens battled injuries this year and was also inconsistent when he played. That left Shrader to play as a true freshman and he has been a solid player considering his youth. Shrader will start the bowl game but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Stevens also play. Both are average passers with really good running skills.
The running back position is very strong with Kylin Hill leading the SEC in rushing as well as overall offensive touches. MSU works him into the passing game well but his strength is finding creases in the defense and using his speed at the second level. Hill is a complete back but he gets help from his line as well as the system. I would put him behind some of the backs Louisville has seen this year but not by much. Cam Akers and Travis Etienne are more talented players but Hill can definitely go off.
Hill is backed up by Nick Gibson and Lee Witherspoon and I don’t know if I’ve seen a group of running backs resemble each other as much as these guys do. They’re all about the same size and they use their stocky stature to get extra yards as well as seemingly sneaking through the line at times. There’s not a big drop off with these two guys but Richards is almost a clone of Hill. It’s his last game as a Bulldog, so I could see him looking to have a big day.
MSU has a strong group of receivers but none are consistently productive. They have great size outside with two receivers that are 6-4 or above while having Dedrick Thomas as the speedy slot guy. This offense doesn’t stretch the field well at all but they do have the size to at least try to draw pass interference or win jump balls. They only have 11 completions on the year for 30 or more yards and only three completions for 40 or more yards. Some of that is due to the quarterback play but there isn’t a ton of speed or elusiveness after the catch.
The MSU offensive line has done a solid job protecting the quarterback but they have given up some sacks due to guys holding onto the ball too long or trying to make plays. The line is a veteran group but they don’t have any guys that really standout like they did in the last bowl game. Louisville’s defensive front was embarrassed in their last game, so the chance to have a bounce back game should push them to take advantage of that looked fairly average at times this year.
Louisville got a great nice lesson in how ineffective their coaching was in 2017 when the defense that Peter Sirmon drug into mediocrity a year before held Lamar Jackson in check. Mississippi State had a ton of talent that year and they had the team speed to at least contain Jackson a bit while Todd Grantham’s pressure schemes forced turnover after turnover. A lot of that talent is gone but MSU has a handful of players that could cause some real issues for Louisville’s offense.
The defensive line is led by Chauncey Rivers at defensive end. Rivers will be familiar to people who watch Last Chance U. He was featured on the show a few years ago and was the top ranked JUCO player in the country. Rivers leads the defense in tackles for loss and sacks. He’s listed at left end so Tyler Haycraft will have a chance to redeem himself after a rough performance against Kentucky.
The rest of the defensive line is big but not overly athletic. Lee Autry is a player that should be a key in how they are able to defend the run. He will be going against Caleb Chandler and Robbie Bell and would be the most likely player to cause disruption against the outside zone runs. The defense allows 4.33 yards per carry and I think that starts up front. They just don’t have any real play makers to get into the backfield to bring guys down or force them off their path.
The group of linebackers is the strong point of this defense, in my opinion. Leo Lewis was the top ranked inside linebacker in the country coming out of high school. He’s also part of the reason that Ole Miss is on probation. Willie Gay was the third ranked outside linebacker in his class. Erroll Thompson might be the best of all of them and he starts in the middle. All three of those guys have a shot at the NFL and all three are guys with size who can really run. Gay might not play in the bowl as he’s only played four games this year and could still redshirt. He’s been injured and has served a suspension but it makes sense for them to gain an extra year for him instead of burning an obvious redshirt situation. Reports say he’s playing but I just find that odd.
Thompson is an outstanding player, in my opinion. He leads the team in tackles but has had a down year when it comes to impact plays. He had nine tackles for loss last year and his speed could cause issues as he can shoot the gaps in the zone blocking scheme and can play sideline-to-sideline. Even if Gay doesn’t play, Lewis and Thompson are the exact type of players that worry me because they have size, speed, and experience. They can be really disruptive against the zone blocking scheme. The positive is that they haven’t played at the level they’re capable of this year. UofL has to make sure that they don’t get it together in the bowl game.
Cameron Dantzler declared for the NFL and will be skipping the game, so Louisville has another positive going for them. Dantzler has been mocked as a mid round pick in the draft, so not having him is a big detriment for MSU. UofL should be seeing two true freshmen corners in the starting lineup who have combined for four total passes defensed. If Louisville gets this match up it should really change the entire passing game. While both players have played a lot this year, there’s no way that they won’t look to help them with safeties. That just opens things up for Tutu Atwell and it might help stave off some of the pass rush because it’s harder to blitz and leave those guys on an island.
Safety was strong in 2017 and it’s a position that’s been reloaded after a few years. Marcus Murphy is supposedly playing even though he’s in the same situation as Willie Gay Jr. He’s a play making safety who had a pick six against Arkansas. He has only played in four games but he’s been an impact guy in three of those games. Murphy playing is huge as Brian Cole will skip the game to prepare for the draft. Cole is the team’s third leading tackler and is tied for the team lead in tackles for loss. I’m not sure it’s an even trade, but the Bulldogs would be in rough shape without Murphy there to step in.
Jaquarius Landrews should be the guy to occupy the other safety spot for the Bulldogs. He is second on the team in tackles and he has six pass breakups on the year. It’s never a good sign when your safeties are so highly ranked on your team in tackles and it should be a good sign for Louisville. Not only are these guys being relied on to help in run support, but they are also leaving he defense open for big plays down the field because they’re so involved in run support. MSU hasn’t given up a ton of big pass plays on the year but they have given up five 50+ yard passing plays which is ranked 74th in the country. That was with all of their players available. Not having two potential NFL guys is big. Replacing NFL guys with freshmen is massive.
Excitement Level: 8.1
I’m still blown away that this season is ending with a bowl game, and I think we’d all love to see such an overwhelmingly positive year end on an overwhelmingly positive note.
Game Attire: Grey U of L hoodie, dark grey Cardinal bird hat
Every time I’ve worn red for a big game in 2019 I think we’ve lost. So ... we’re not wearing red.
Pregame Meal: No idea
Four o’clock on a Monday is a weird time for this sort of thing if you’re not at the game. I’m thinking this is going to have to be more of a halftime snack.
Bold Prediction: Javian Hawkins rushes for more yards in this game than Kylin Hill
Given the most recent show we saw from the Cardinal rush defense, this feels pretty bold, even with as good as Javian has been this year.
Ty Tyler Sack Alert Level: Salmon (gonna take a miracle)
Our guy not seeing the field at the end of the regular season and not being on the two-deep for this game means the dream might be past life support.
Predicted Star of the Game: Javian Hawkins
After watching games 1-12, this feels like the only logical choice for game 13.
—Louisville is 10-11-1 all-time in bowl games. The Cardinals had a streak of eight consecutive years with a bowl appearance snapped by their 2-10 season in 2018.
—Mississippi State is 13-9 all-time in bowl games. The Bulldogs had a streak of three consecutive bowl wins snapped by last season’s 27-22 loss to Iowa in the Outback Bowl.
—MSU is making its 23rd all-time bowl appearance and 10th straight. It will conclude the decade as one of only five SEC programs to go to a bowl every season from 2010-19, joining Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Texas A&M.
—Mississippi State is one of just 13 FBS programs to go to a bowl game every year this decade.
—Louisville is 3-3 against SEC opponents in bowl games. The combined scores of the five games is 148-144.
—Scott Satterfield is just the fourth coach in U of L history to lead the Cardinals to a bowl game in his first season on the job.
—Mississippi State RB Kylin Hill leads the SEC in rushing yards (1,347) and 100-yard rushing games (8) and ranks fifth in rushing touchdowns (10). He is one of seven Power 5 running backs with 1,300-plus rushing yards and 10-plus rushing touchdowns this season.
—Javian Hawkins’ 1,420 rushing yards are the most ever by a Louisville freshman and the fourth-most in a single season by a Cardinal running back. Hawkins needs just 10 yards to move into third on that list. Hawkins ranks seventh in the nation in rushing yards per game (118.3) and 10th in total rushing yards.
—Mississippi State defensive backs coach Terrell Buckley coached the same position at Louisville in 2014-2015.
—Louisville is the second team in ACC history to go 0-8 in league play one season and 5-3 the very next year. The turnaround is the second-largest in U of L football history. The Cards went 7-5 in John L. Smith’s first year of 1998 after going just 1-10 the year before.
—Louisville is 10-4 in bowl games when no opposing player rushes for 110 yards and 0-7-1 when one does.
—Louisville offensive tackle Mekhi Becton will not play in this game, instead opting to start his preparation for the NFL Draft.
—Mississippi State cornerback Cameron Dantzler is also skipping the bowl game to prepare for the draft. Running back Kylin Hill has declared for the draft, but will play in the bowl game.
—Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead is just the second coach in MSU history to lead the Bulldogs to a bowl game in his first two seasons, joining Jackie Sherrill (1991-92).
—Mississippi State is 6-3 all-time in bowl games against ACC opponents.
—Scott Satterfield is a perfect 3-0 as a head coach in bowl games.
—Louisville is 3-0 all-time at Nissan Stadium, including a 38-21 win over Western Kentucky on Sept. 14, and a 27-21 win over Texas A&M in the 2015 Music City Bowl.
—Mississippi State QB Garrett Schrader will not play in this game after suffering an eye injury during a post-practice fight with a teammate last week. Senior Tommy Stevens will start in his place.
—Louisville is 28-33 all-time in games played in NFL stadiums.
—This is the second time in U of L football history that the Cards will play multiple games in the same season at the same away venue. In 1993, Louisville defeated Memphis State on the road in the regular season and then beat Michigan State in the Liberty Bowl.
—Louisville is 6-0 this season when winning the turnover battle, and just 1-5 when losing it.
—Louisville’s TuTu Atwell is the only player in the FBS with four receptions that have gone for 70 yards or more this season. He leads the nation in receptions of 50+, 60+, 70+, 80+, and 90+ yards.
—Louisville is 6-1 this season when scoring first, and 1-4 when allowing their opponents to score first.
—Louisville is 5-0 this season when leading at halftime.
—The Cards are 2-5 this season as an underdog.
—Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 249 games dating back to a 31-0 loss to Florida State during the 2000 season. The streak ranks as the second longest in the ACC behind only Virginia Tech, and the 12th-longest nationally.
—Louisville is 188-13 all-time when scoring 35 or more points in a game. The Cards are also 6-116 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.
—“We’re honored to be here. Man, what a great experience for our football team and our players, our fans. We’re only two and a half hours away, so they’re excited about it, as well. “Heard great things about this bowl. It’s all been true. We’ve had a great experience this week, all the events. Everybody has been so hospitable. It’s been an awesome experience for all our guys.” —Scott Satterfield
—“I think (a win) would be huge. As coach Satterfield alluded to earlier, the reward of winning six games or more in the regular season, having an opportunity to play in the postseason, not only is it valuable for the opportunity to end your season and the senior season with a win, but the developmental aspect of it. The entire bowl experience, getting our young guys a bunch of reps, getting them developed, that is invaluable. Like I mentioned earlier, with the positive momentum, all the good things we have going, want to have the opportunity to finish it, send these seniors off in the right way. It would mean a ton to me, a lot to the team and the program as well.” —Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead
—“It’s knowing that we have a bad taste in our mouth coming off a loss, we’ve done it before, come off a loss and dominated the next week. That’s what we are going to try to do. … We’ll be excited to get that bad taste out of our mouth and beat up on somebody else again.” —Dez Fitzpatrick
—“Bowls are funny because it’s a month since the last game. Our guys have continued to practice hard, prepare hard. Half the battle in a bowl game is desire to be there. I think our guys have expressed and shown a desire to be here. Really excited about this opportunity to play together one more time.” —Mississippi State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop
—“I know for me, yes I’m doing the best I can to make sure that we win this time. I didn’t enjoy losing last time.” —Robbie Bell
—“I’m sure somehow, someway there’ll be cowbells there.” —GG Robinson
Card Chronicle Prediction: Mississippi State 28, Louisville 27
This prediction is for all of you.