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Week 11 Bowl Projections: Media Likes Mississippi State to face Hokies in Bulldogs’ First Citrus Bowl Game

With the college football regular season entering the home stretch, the countdown to the 2018 Citrus Bowl has begun in Orlando. After 11 weeks of play, let’s take a look at which teams the college football media are predicting to meet on New Year’s Day at Camping World Stadium.

Though the Citrus Bowl has been a traditional Big Ten/SEC match-up for more than two decades, last season’s game featured the Louisville Cardinals, the first participant from the ACC since 1992. The Cardinals’ appearance against LSU (a 29-9 Tigers victory) was the result of the Citrus Bowl’s unique relationship with the Orange Bowl in Miami.

In years where the Orange Bowl hosts a Big Ten team (like last season, when it featured 2016 Citrus Bowl champion Michigan), the Citrus Bowl replaces the traditional Big Ten pick with the top non-Playoff selection from the ACC. As a result of that twist in the selection process, bowl projections now span a wide range of potential match-ups.

Kyle Bonagura (ESPN): Penn State vs. Mississippi State
David M. Hale (ESPN): Virginia Tech vs. Mississippi State
Eric Single (Sports Illustrated): Penn State vs. Mississippi State
Jerry Palm (CBSSports.com): Ohio State vs. Mississippi State
Bill Bender (Sporting News): Michigan vs. LSU
Jason Kirk (SB Nation): Virginia Tech vs. South Carolina
CollegeFootballNews.com: Virginia Tech vs. Mississippi State
Brett McMurphy: Northwestern vs. Mississippi State

Penn State vs. Mississippi State

Penn State edged LSU 19-17 in the 2010 Citrus Bowl, then known as the Capital One Bowl
  • Teams have never faced off on the gridiron
  • Mississippi State has never played in a bowl game in Orlando, but they did make a trip to Florida last season for the St. Petersburg Bowl, where the Bulldogs defeated Miami (Ohio) 17-16
  • Penn State has a 2-3 all-time series record in the Citrus Bowl and is tied for the second more appearances in the bowl’s history
  • Mississippi State’s defense allows just 304.8 total yards per game (No. 11 nationally), but Penn State boasts Heisman hopeful Saquon Barkley; the Nittany Lions also have a potent passing attack (283.6 yards per game), led by quarterback Trace McSorley

Virginia Tech vs. Mississippi State

  • This would bet the first matchup between the programs
  • Virginia Tech appeared in the 2012 Camping World Bowl, a 13-10 overtime win over Rutgers, and also visited Orlando for the 2016 ACC Championship Game at Camping World Stadium, a 2000 road game against UCF and a 1991 neutral-site game against top-ranked Florida State
  • The Hokies have the sixth best scoring offense in the nation allowing their opponents to score only 14.8 points per game
  • Mississippi State’s 12th-ranked rushing offense (250.6) would be up against the No. 33 rushing defense that allows 135.7 yards per game

Ohio State vs. Mississippi State

  • No previous matchups between the programs
  • Ohio State holds a 1-3 record in the Citrus Bowl, and its last appearance was in 1996, a 20-14 loss to Tennessee
  • The Buckeyes’ third-ranked offense, which is averaging 546.5 total yards per game, is led by quarterback J.T. Barrett, who has the No. 1 completion rate in the Big Ten and the fifth best in the nation (0.674)
  • Barrett and the Buckeye offense would be interesting to watch against a Mississippi State defense that ranks ninth nationally in passing yards allowed with 172.9 per game

Michigan vs. LSU

Michigan celebrating their 41-7 win over Florida in the 2016 Citrus Bowl
  • This would be the first time in program history the Wolverines played the Tigers
  • LSU holds a 2-2 record in the Citrus Bowl, including losses to Penn State (2010) and Iowa (2005) and wins against Wake Forest (1979) and Louisville (2016)
  • Michigan is 4-1 in the Citrus Bowl and tied for second most appearances in the bowl’s history
  • Both teams are strong defensively; LSU ranks No. 16 among FBS schools in total defense at 317.1 yards allowed per game, while Michigan is in the top 10 in multiple defensive categories, including total defense (254.8, 3rd), rushing defense (110.4, 9th), passing yards allowed (144.5, 2nd) and scoring defense (16.4, 9th)

Virginia Tech vs. South Carolina

  • This would be the 21st meeting between the Hokies and the Gamecocks but their first since 1991, when South Carolina beat Virginia Tech 28-21
  • The Gamecocks lead the all-time series 11-7-2 and have a two-game win streak over the Hokies
  • South Carolina has played in the Citrus Bowl three times previously and holds a 2-1 all-time record
  • Their most recent game here was in 2014, when the Gamecocks defeated Wisconsin 34-24
  • This matchup would potentially be a low-scoring game, as South Carolina has only allowed their opponents 20.6 points per game, and Virginia Tech is allowing 14.8 points per game on the season

Mississippi State vs. Northwestern

  • Schools have met one time, in the 2013 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville
  • Northwestern defeated the Bulldogs 34-20
  • Mississippi State has not played in either of our bowl games, and Northwestern lost in its only Citrus Bowl appearance — a 48-28 defeat against Peyton Manning and Tennessee in 1997
  • One of Northwestern’s strengths this season is its No. 7 rushing defense (109.6 yards per game), which would get a stiff challenge from Mississippi State’s 12th-ranked rushing offense (250.6 yards per game)

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