Mississippi State vs. Louisville: Music City Bowl preview and picks against the spread

Yahoo Sports

Mississippi State (6-6) vs. Louisville (7-5)

Location: Nashville | When: Dec. 30 (4 p.m.) | TV: ESPN | Line: MSU -4.5

HOW THESE TEAMS GOT HERE

Scroll to continue with content
Ad

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs have been mediocre in two seasons under Joe Moorhead and endured a span this season where they lost five of six games, including four consecutive SEC games. That losing streak dropped MSU to 3-5, but Moorhead’s team managed to rally by winning three of their final four games to get to a bowl game. The finale was a doozy. MSU held on to beat rival Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl 21-20 thanks to the now-infamous Ole Miss dog pee penalty. 

Louisville: After a disastrous 2-10 season in 2018 under Bobby Petrino, UL brought in Scott Satterfield to revitalized the program. It looks like he has the Cardinals back on the right track after surprising folks with a 7-5 record in 2019. Louisville started the season 4-2 and had impressive wins over Wake Forest and Virginia along the way. The Cardinals clinched bowl eligibility by beating NC State and then sealed a winning season by knocking off Syracuse. 

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH

If you like running the ball, this is the game for you. Between Louisville’s Javian Hawkins and Mississippi State’s Kylin Hill, you’ve got two stellar running backs who combined for 2,767 yards and 18 touchdowns. Those are the stars of two top-25 rushing offenses in the country. MSU ranks No. 18 while Louisville ranks No. 23, and the two teams have combined for a whopping 183 rushing plays of 10-plus yards. You could see a few long TD runs in this one. 

Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill has rushed for 1,347 yards and 10 TDs this year. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill has rushed for 1,347 yards and 10 TDs this year. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Mississippi State LB Erroll Thompson: Erroll Thompson is in his third season as the starting middle linebacker for the Mississippi State defense. Thompson trailed only first-round pick Johnathan Abram in tackles a year ago. This year, he led the way, compiling 84 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss. For his career, Thompson has totaled 217 tackles, 19 tackles for loss and seven sacks. He’ll be relied upon to keep the Louisville running attack in check.

Louisville WR Tutu Atwell: Atwell had a big year as a sophomore for Louisville. The 5-foot-9, 153-pound speedster earned first-team All-ACC honors by accumulating 60 catches for 1,125 yards and 12 touchdowns. His receiving yardage leads the ACC while his touchdowns rank second and his receiving average (18.75 yards per catch) rank fourth. 

NFL DRAFT PROSPECT

Mississippi State RB Kylin Hill: With Bulldogs CB Cam Dantzler and Cardinals OT Mekhi Becton sitting out this game to prep for the NFL draft, the pro-caliber talent has been thinned out noticeably. But Hill has said he’s in for this game, and it’s one more chance for him to display his exceptional contact balance and angry running style. The SEC’s leading rusher this season also is a threat on screen passes and can be a tough player to bring down at a rocked-up 5-11 and 215 pounds. He could get pushed down in the draft in a well-stocked RB class, but Hill might end up an exceptional steal either late on Day 2 or early in Day 3 next spring. He’s one of our favorite players to watch.

- Eric Edholm

WHAT’S ON THE LINE

Mississippi State: Mississippi State could use some positive vibes going into the offseason. Dan Mullen left behind a talented team, but MSU underperformed in Moorhead’s first season. There were more struggles in 2019, and Moorhead was dangerously close to losing his job after just two seasons. But the Egg Bowl changed things, and a bowl win to lock up a winning season would give MSU some good feelings entering the offseason. MSU has won three of its last four bowl games. 

Louisville: A win in a bowl game would be a tremendous way to cap off Satterfield’s first season with the program. Expectations weren’t very high for the Cardinals entering the year, so possibly getting up to eight wins would be a nice accomplishment. It would also end a streak of three straight seasons without a bowl win. UL lost the Citrus Bowl in 2016 and the TaxSlayer Bowl in 2017. 

PICKS

Nick Bromberg: Louisville +4.5

Sam Cooper: Louisville +4.5

Picks from the Yahoo Sports College Podcast

Pat Forde: MSU -4

Pete Thamel: Louisville +4

Dan Wetzel: MSU -4

Sean Sullivan: MSU -4

More from Yahoo Sports: 

What to Read Next