After falling just short of the college football playoff, Dak Prescott and Mississippi State look to go out on a high note against Georgia Tech’s potent run game.


No. 7 Mississippi State (10-2) vs. No. 12 Georgia Tech (10-3)

Wednesday, Dec. 31. 8:00 PM ET (ESPN)

How They Got Here

Mississippi State was the top-ranked team in the nation for much of the season, but late-season losses to Alabama and Ole Miss knocked them out of the playoffs. However, their overall resume and the perceived strength of the SEC earned the Bulldogs an at-large invite. Georgia Tech also earned an at-large berth after a 10-2 regular season and falling just short of upsetting defending champion Florida State in the ACC title game.

When Mississippi State Has the Ball

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Getty Images

The Bulldogs boast one of the nation’s best and most balanced offenses. Led by junior quarterback Dak Prescott, Mississippi State ranks 9th nationally in total offense and 14th in scoring. Prescott finished seventh in the Heisman trophy voting after accounting for 3,935 total yards (including a school-record 2,996 passing) and 37 touchdowns this season. He’s joined in the backfield by running back Josh Robinson, who rushed for 1,128 yards this season (fifth best in school history).

They’ll face a Georgia Tech defense that has improved as the season went on, but has struggled against the run (71st nationally). Keep an eye on Prescott running the ball (939 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground this year). In their two midseason losses (Duke and  North Carolina), Georgia Tech struggled against mobile quarterbacks, giving up 122 yards and a score. If Prescott can make plays with his legs, the Yellow Jackets could be in for a long night.

When Georgia Tech Has the Ball

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Getty Images

While the Bulldogs boast balance, Georgia Tech is all about the ground game. The Yellow Jackets triple-option attack ranks third nationally in rushing but just 122nd in passing. But that approach has been effective, as Tech averages 37 points per game (18th nationally). However, they’ll face a stout Mississippi State defense that not only ranks 25th nationally against the run (126.5 ypg), but is tenth in the nation in scoring defense.

Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas is the team’s leading rusher with 965 yards this season. But he has also shown an ability to make plays with his arm in the rare instances the Yellow Jackets throw the ball. He has thrown for 1,594 yards and 17 touchdowns on the year. Notably, because opposing defenses do so much to load up against  the run, he has made several throws this year that have gone for big gains. He will have to have at least some success through the air to keep the Bulldogs’ stout defense from stacking the line against the option.


One of the biggest strengths of the triple-option offense is that, because so few teams run it, opponents very rarely practice defending it until the week of the game. In this case, Mississippi State has known about this matchup for nearly a month and has had more time than most opponents to prepare. While you’ll never shut down the Georgia Tech running game, that extra time could help the Bulldogs slow the Yellow Jackets down and force them into a less comfortable passing mode.

An Orange Bowl victory would not only give the Bulldogs their fourth bowl win in five years, but would secure the first 11-win season in school history. For the Yellow Jackets, a win would give them their first 11-win season since their 11-0-1 national championship season in 1990. It would also give them just their second bowl win in their last ten bowl games.

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