MSU beat reporter Logan Lowery breaks down today’s Liberty Bowl matchup.
Where: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium (59,308), Memphis
Kickoff: Tuesday, 3 p.m.
Radio: MSU Network, Sirius/XM 84.
Records: Rice 10-3, 7-1 Conference USA; MSU 6-6, 3-5 SEC
Series: Rice leads 1-0 due to forfeit.
Last meeting: The Bulldogs won a 1975 contest 28-14 in Houston that was later forfeited by the NCAA.
Coaches – Rice: David Bailiff 40-47 at Rice (7th season), 61-62 overall (10th season); MSU: Dan Mullen 35-28 (5th season)
Statistical leaders – Rice: QB Taylor McHargue 161-309-8, 2,261 yards, 17 TDs, 151-466, 5 TDs rushing; RB Charles Ross 201-1,252, 14 TDs; LB Michael Kutzler 86 tackles, 6.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks; DE Cody Bauer 34 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks. MSU: QB Dak Prescott 139-239-7, 1,657 yards, 7 TDs, 120-751, 11 TDs rushing; WR Jameon Lewis 55-703, 5 TDs; LB Benardrick McKinney 70 tackles, 6.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries; DL Chris Jones 31 tackles, 7.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks.
Trends: MSU is playing in its fourth straight bowl game for the first time in school history. … The Bulldogs are making their fourth Liberty Bowl appearance and are 1-2 in that bowl. … This will be State’s 17th bowl game, and it holds a 9-7 record. … LB Deontae Skinner and G Gabe Jackson will have played in a bowl in all four years, with Jackson starting all four. … The Bulldogs have won 20 straight when leading at halftime. … Rice is appearing in back-to-back bowls for the first time since 1960-61.
Notes: The Bulldogs are on pace to break the school record (422 in 1982) for total offense, averaging 426.2 yards per game. Rice will be the third conference champion the Bulldogs have played this season (lost to Auburn, beat Bowling Green). … Rice is playing in its 11th bowl game. …The Owls are 23-45-5 in games against the SEC. …Mississippi State won the 2007 Liberty Bowl 10-3 over Central Florida and helped set the bowl attendance record of 63,816.
Prediction: Mississippi State 28, Rice 21.
Today’s matchup will be a battle of talent versus experience. Mississippi State brings the ability of a Southeastern Conference program while Rice will rely on its 23 seniors, 19 of which are in their fifth seasons for the Owls.
Both teams are eerily similar, averaging 426 yards per game offensively. The Bulldogs throw for 240.3 yards and grind out 185.8 yards on the ground. Rice rushes for 240.2 yards and gains 185.5 yards through the air.
The Owls achieved their goal of winning the Conference USA championship and advancing to the Liberty Bowl. MSU had its lofty goals dashed early into the season with a rash of injuries and had to battle its way into a bowl for a fourth consecutive year with overtime wins over Arkansas and Ole Miss in the final two games just to reach the postseason. Both teams are genuinely thrilled about playing in today’s game.
The Bulldogs came into the year very youthful at several positions, but due to injury many of those younger players received a lot of playing time and gained valuable experience. That, coupled with superior size and strength, should give them the upper hand over the Owls.