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NCAA Football Bowl Betting – UCF vs. Mississippi
Dec. 29 — Liberty Bowl Preview at Memphis, Tenn., Mississippi State (7-5) vs. UCF (10-3), 4:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Kevin Smith may not have stolen the head lines as much as you would’ve thought, but the nation’s leading rusher will get to hog the spotlight on Saturday afternoon as his Central Florida Knights lock up with the Bulldogs in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. Mississippi State has been an afterthought in the SEC for quite some time, but things are beginning to turn around for the Bulldogs. A bowl victory here would be a fine exclamation point for a once fledgling Mississippi State program.
Central Florida Offense vs. Mississippi State Defense
All Kevin Smith needs is 180 more yards and he will pass Barry Sanders as the nation’s single-season rushing record holder. The Knights certainly aren’t shy about rushing the ball, and average 237.8 yards per game. Mississippi State has a solid linebacker unit that makes their tackles, but Smith will be a difficult matchup for them. The Bulldogs give up 159.0 rush yards per game.
The pass defense for the Bulldogs has been a big reason for their turnaround. They allow only 182.2 passing yards per game and face an offense that rarely passes. The Knights average 187.9 passing yards per game behind quarterback Kyle Israel’s uninspiring play. Helping Israel in a big way will be the ankle injury to corner-back Anthony Johnson of the Bulldogs, who is by and large their best corner in the secondary.
Still, even with that injury, the Knights are not a passing team. Even when they get in to trouble, they will give Smith every chance in the world to break the single-season rushing record. For the betting investor, that means a low scoring affair on the Knight’s behalf as they look to control the clock and wait patiently for the defense to make a mistake.
Mississippi State Offense vs. Central Florida Defense
On the other hand, the Mississippi State rushing offense is centered around the big 240 pound body of running-back Anthony Dixon, who averages only 3.7 yards per carry. That average will take a dip against a burly, UCF front-seven. UCF only gives up 139.3 rushing yards and Dixon is simply not dynamic enough to break open big chunks of yardage. He is a between-the-tackles runner who will be limited by a stout and stifling defensive line.
That same defensive line excels at pressuring the quarterback. With true-freshman quarterback Wesley Carroll slinging the rock for the Bulldogs, the Mississippi State betting faithful have to be getting worried. The Bulldogs average a pathetic 170.0 yards through the air. UCF is certainly vulnerable, allowing 232.4 passing yards per game, but Carroll lacks the football IQ and the killer instincts to take advantage of that weakness.
NCAA Football Betting Trends
-Central Florida is 5-2 ATS in its last 7 games
-Central Florida is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games
-total has gone UNDER in 4 of Mississippi State’s last 5 games
-Mississippi State is 5-6 ATS on the season
Kevin Smith flew under the radar for much of the season, and that has to be frustrating for a talented back who led the nation in rushing this season. He will use this bowl game to showcase his talents in the backfield as he breaks through and runs roughshod all over the Bulldogs. Despite their solid season, the Bulldogs simply do not have the offensive fire power to keep pace with an offense that outscores them by 15.5 points per game on average.
Central Florida Knights (10-3) vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-5)
Saturday, December 29th — Liberty Bowl, Memphis — 4:30pm EST
Opening NCAA Football Line: UCF -3 (60.5)
NCAA Football Free Pick: UCF 35 Mississippi State 24
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