Teams playing bowls under interim head coaches went 2-3 both straight up and against the spread last year, and they’re 1-2 both SU and ATS so far this bowl season. Following the departure of Dan Mullen Mississippi State will play under an interim coach when they take on Louisville in the TaxSlayer Bowl Saturday afternoon in Jacksonville (noon ET, ESPN).
Most of this season’s bowl betting market opened Louisville at -5, with an over/under of right around 62. As of about 24 hours prior to kickoff most shops listed the Cardinals at -6.5 or -7, with a total of 63.
Louisville (8-4 SU, 5-7 ATS) started 4-1 this season, the only loss over that span coming against eventual ACC champion and College Football Playoff qualifier Clemson. The Cardinals then stumbled through a 1-3 stretch, which included losses to three bowl-bound outfits in North Carolina State, Boston College and Wake Forest. But Louisville then finished its regular season with three straight wins, most recently a 44-17 victory over Kentucky in the finale.
So the Cardinals are back in a bowl for the eighth straight season.
Louisville outgained UK 562-338 and outrushed the Wildcats 346-228. On the season the Cardinals outgained and outrushed 10 of their 12 opponents.
Mississippi State (8-4 SU, 7-5 ATS), meanwhile, started 7-2 this season, the only losses in that span coming against eventual SEC champion and CFP qualifier Georgia and SEC divisional champion Auburn. The Bulldogs then led another CFP qualifier, Alabama, 24-17 in the fourth quarter but lost 31-24. MSU then beat Arkansas but fell to rival Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl 31-28.
Nonetheless the Bulldogs are also playing in a bowl for the eighth straight season.
Mississippi State outgained the Rebels in that season finale 501-355 but turned the ball over five times.
The Bulldogs outgained and outrushed six of their last seven opponents.
On the down side Mississippi State lost dual-threat QB Nick Fitzgerald for the season to an ankle injury in that game against Ole Miss. Back-up Keytaon Thompson accounted for over 300 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns in relief, but a lot of that came while the Bulldogs tried to rally from a pair of 18-point deficits.
By the Numbers
Louisville ranks No. 3 in the country in total offense at 561 yards per game and 61st in defense at 387 YPG, while playing what Sagarin at USAToday.com ranks as the 47th-toughest schedule.
Mississippi State ranks 45th in offense at 420 YPG and 10th in defense at 302 YPG, while playing the 50th-toughest schedule.
Free College Football Pick
Louisville has Lamar Jackson, while Mississippi State is down a coach and a quarterback. We’re giving the points here with the Cardinals.