Week 16 Recap
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Mississippi State travels three hours north to play Texas Tech on Tuesday in the Liberty Bowl in a matchup featuring two of the more surprising teams in college football this season. The Bulldogs flipped from 4-7 to 7-5 in one season behind a high-powered offense and improvement from defensive coordinator Zach Arnett’s group. However, MSU will be without starting tackle Charles Cross in the bowl game after he declared for the NFL Draft.
Texas Tech earned a trip to its first bowl game since 2017 after star kicker Jonathan Garibay nailed a 62-yard field goal as time expired against Iowa State to give the Red Raiders six wins. Tech started the season 5-2 against a light schedule and lost games against No. 8 Baylor and Kansas State by a combined four points. The Red Raiders also started three different quarterbacks because of injuries.
The Bulldogs and Red Raiders have played seven times, but not since 1970, with Mississippi State holding a 4-2-1 advantage. The matchup pits Mike Leach — the winningest head coach in Texas Tech history — against his former program.
Bad blood: Leach was a standout coach at Texas Tech from 2000-09, winning 84 games to become the winningest coach in program history and leading the Red Raiders to their first 11-win season since 1973. However, he was pushed out after questions of player treatment came to the forefront in 2009. It’s a bitter divorce that he remains vocal about to this day. Expect revenge to be on Leach’s mind.
Staff turnover: Texas Tech fired head coach Matt Wells halfway through the season despite a winning record at the time. However, new coach Joey McGuire will not coach the bowl game. Instead, offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie will serve as interim coach before he moves on to his new gig as coach at Louisiana Tech. Meanwhile, defensive coordinator Keith Patterson left to take the head-coaching job at Abilene Christian. The gap in coaching consistency between Mississippi State and Texas Tech is immense. While the Red Raiders are searching for their first bowl win since 2013, the instability might be too much to overcome.
Gunslinger: Leach has fielded several great quarterbacks during his time as a coach, but sophomore Will Rogers is staking his claim among the elite. Rogers completed 75.1% of his passes for 4,449 yards passing and 35 touchdowns in a sensational campaign. He needs just 52 yards to pass Mac Jones for the No. 2 total passing campaign in SEC history, trailing only Joe Burrow. His performance was critical in Mississippi State’s quick turnaround, headlined by a six-touchdown performance against Auburn.
Game: Liberty Bowl
Date: Tuesday, Dec. 28 | Time: 6:45 p.m. ET
Location: Liberty Bowl — Memphis, Tennessee
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
The Red Raiders are in a season of turmoil heading into their first bowl game since 2017. With so much turnover, expect steady-handed Mississippi State to take full advantage. Texas Tech has not played a pure Air Raid team in a while, and its secondary struggled at times to deal with aerial pressure. If Leach can, he will run up the score. Prediction: Mississippi State (-9)
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