Top Defenses Take Center Stage
The fans at Raymond James Stadium will the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Mississippi State Bulldogs on New Years Day, 2019. The teams are playing in the 2019 Outback Bowl.
Two of the premier defenses in FBS will take center stage on New Year’s Day in Tampa, Florida. The No. 18 Mississippi State Bulldogs and the Iowa Hawkeyes square off. The Bulldogs are the only team in the country to rank inside the top 10 in scoring (FBS-best 12 points allowed per game), rushing (ninth; 104.3 yards), passing (sixth; 164.2) and total (third; 268.4) defense. Iowa finished the regular season in a tie for first in FBS with 18 interceptions. They rivaled Mississippi State in three of the four defensive categories: 11th in scoring (17.4), seventh in rushing (102.8) and seventh in total yards (289.6).
Iowa was the home of two of the best tight ends in the country in 2018. Only one will take the field in the Outback Bowl. First-team All-Big Ten selection Noah Fant elected to skip the bowl game to prepare for the 2019 NFL Draft. He had a three-year career in which he caught 19 touchdown passes, which is the most ever by a tight end in school history. Mackey Award winner T.J. Hockenson has yet to announce whether he will turn pro, but he will play. He racked up seven total TD’s and team-high totals of 46 receptions and 717 receiving yards in 2018.
Defensive end Montez Sweat is expected to be a first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. He became the first Mississippi State player to be named a first-team All-American since Benardrick McKinney in 2014. The 6-6, 245-pound Georgia native ranks sixth in school history with 21.5 career sacks despite playing only two seasons with the Bulldogs. Sweat consistently made his presence felt in 2018. He tallied 11 sacks (tied for sixth in FBS), 13.5 tackles for loss (seventh in the SEC) and 40 total pressures per Pro Football Focus.
This, That, and a Dart Throw
Mississippi State was 8-4 overall and 4-4 in the SEC during the regular season. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald has been responsible for 99 total touchdowns in his career. He owns the SEC record for most 100-yard rushing games by a quarterback, at 20. He is the only signal-caller in conference history to run for more than 3,000 yards. All-SEC defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons anchors the front of the Bulldogs’ dominant defense. He has a team-high 14.5 tackles for loss that ranks fourth in the conference. His 45 tackles during league play led all SEC defensive lineman. Safety Johnathan Abram heads up the back end of the Bulldogs’ defense. He garnered All-SEC honors after recording a team-high 93 tackles. He had 7.5 for losses, 2.5 sacks, two interceptions, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.
Iowa was 8-4 overall and 5-4 in the Big 10 during the regular season. Nate Stanley is responsible for two of the top six passing touchdown totals in school history. His 26 in 2017 was second in program annals, while his 23 in 2018 ranks sixth. His 49 TD passes in 2017-18 is tied with Chuck Long for the most over a two-year span. Defensive ends A.J. Epenesa and Anthony Nelson are in a three-way tie for first in the Big Ten with 9.5 sacks. This is the highest single-season totals by any Hawkeye since Adrian Clayborn had 11.5 in 2009. Ihmir Smith-Marsette averages a Big Ten-best 29.3 yards on kickoff returns, which is second in FBS. Kyle Groeneweg also leads the conference with a 10.2-yard average on punt returns.
PREDICTION: Mississippi State 24, Iowa 10
Outback Bowl Trends
Iowa Hawkeyes Trends
- Trend Over is 16-5 in Hawkeyes last 21 games as a favorite of 0.5-3.0. Hit % 76.20% (21) O/U 16|5 Push 0 W/L
- Over is 5-2 in Hawkeyes last 7 games as a favorite. 71.40% (7) 5|2 0
- Under is 22-6-1 in Hawkeyes last 29 games as an underdog of 3.5-10.0. 78.60% (29) 6|22 1
- Over is 5-2 in Hawkeyes last 7 games as a favorite of 10.5 or greater. 71.40% (7) 5|2 0
Mississippi State Bulldogs Trends
- Trend Under is 14-4 in Bulldogs last 18 games as a favorite of 0.5-3.0. Hit % 77.80% (18) O/U 16|5 Push 0 W/L
- Under is 5-1 in Bulldogs last 6 games as a favorite. 83.30% (6) 5|2 0
- Under is 15-6 in Bulldogs last 21 games as an underdog of 3.5-10.0. 71.40% (21) 6|22 1
- Under is 4-0 in Bulldogs last 4 games as an underdog. 100.00% (4) 5|0 0
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