Miami (Ohio) faces Mississippi State in St. Petersburg Bowl
Miami, Ohio (6-6, Mid-American Conference) vs. Mississippi State (5-7, SEC), 11 a.m. EST (ESPN).
Line: Mississippi State by 14+.
Series Record: First meeting.
WHAT'S AT STAKE
Miami is the first team in NCAA history to rebound from losing its first six games and finish the regular season 6-6. A seventh consecutive victory would give the RedHawks their first winning season since 2010, and knocking off an opponent from the vaunted SEC certainly won't hurt coach Chuck Martin on the recruiting trail. Mississippi State has had a disappointing season by recent Bulldogs standards; however, a win would provide coach Dan Mullen and younger players a boost heading into the offseason.
Miami's defense against Mississippi State dual-threat QB Nick Fitzgerald, who has rushed for 1,243 yards and 14 touchdowns while throwing for 2,287 yards and 21 TDs. Fitzgerald broke Dak Prescott's school single-season rushing record for a quarterback and his total is third best for a QB in SEC history behind Heisman Trophy winners Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Miami, Ohio: QB Gus Ragland has thrown for 1,274 yards and 15 TDs. WR James Gardner averages a team-leading 16.5 yards per reception with 40 catches for 658 yards and five TDs.
Mississippi State: Fitzgerald is the focal point of the Bulldogs' offense. Once the ball leaves the QB's hands, though, it's often bound for WR Fred Ross, who has 68 receptions for 873 yards and a SEC-leading 12 TD catches.
FACTS & FIGURES
Mississippi State has a losing record but qualified for a bowl berth because of its NCAA Academic Progress Rate. ... The Bulldogs are in a bowl game for the seventh straight year under Mullen. It's their 20th postseason appearance overall, including a victory over North Carolina State in last year's Belk Bowl. ... Miami is 7-3 all-time in bowl games but hasn't appeared in one since the GoDaddy Bowl in 2010. ... The RedHawks are facing a SEC team in a bowl game for the first time since the 1974 Tangerine Bowl. ... Miami's six-game winning streak carried the RedHawks to a share of the MAC East Division title. It also more than doubled the win total for a senior class that was 5-37 before the turnaround.
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