The Gator Bowl, excuse me, the TaxSlayer Bowl plays host to the Louisville Cardinals and Mississippi State Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon. Louisville didn’t exactly have the year they wanted to with Lamar Jackson. The former Heisman winner was unable to defend his award this season, but we can’t put much of the blame on him. He was working with a defunct offensive line from opening weekend and while the kinks were ironed out later in the year, it was too late for the Cardinals to make a push.
Their season was effectively in the gutter after getting blown out by Clemson, 47-21, back in September. They looked defeated already and it was only the third game of the year. Louisville bounced back but suffered a few more losses along the way. They took losses against NC State, Boston College, and Wake Forest to finish with a record of 8-4.
Jackson still put up nice numbers, with 25 touchdowns and 6 interceptions and 1,443 yards rushing. He also put up 17 touchdowns on the ground. Mind blowing numbers, but Louisville as a team did not do enough to put Lamar on the Heisman map again. Baker Mayfield ran away with those honors. The Sooners are playing in the playoff, while Louisville are here in the TaxSlayer Bowl. It’d nevertheless be a nice ending to Jackson’s college career to get a win against an SEC opponent.
By the looks of it, this appears to be his last hurrah at the college level. There’s no reason for him to stay around for another year. He’s proven everything in college, and will be a high selection in the draft, so why not. Louisville are not going to have a team to win a National Championship or anything next season.
Mississippi State will be a man down at quarterback in this one. Nick Fitzgerald suffered a gruesome knee injury against Ole Miss, ending his Egg Bowl early and the opportunity to play in a bowl game. Keytaon Thompson will assume the starting duties in the TaxSlayer Bowl for the Bulldogs. Head below for our free Louisville vs. Mississippi State pick.
Louisville Cardinals vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs Betting Odds:
vs. Mississippi State +7(-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Louisville vs. Mississippi State Pick:
Mississippi State will be down Nick Fitzgerald at quarterback, but they do have their defense. They say defense travels, so we’ll see if it wants to travel to play Lamar Jackson. The Bulldogs finished the regular season with 302 yards allowed per game for 10th in the FBS. They were particularly stout against the pass, allowing just 175 yards per game through the air. Ole Miss exploited their secondary in the Egg Bowl, so we’ll see if they respond and bounce back. It feels like after that Fitzgerald injury, everything was sucked out of them. We’ll see if they get up for Lamar Jackson and the Cardinals.
Keytaon Thompson was thrown into a rivalry game without much experience. It wasn’t much of a surprise that he struggled to find traction. They did nearly claw back when he was starting to get going, but it was too late, and it was a 31-28 loss for the Bulldogs. Thompson threw for 195 yards with a touchdown and interception. The best part of his game is the ability to run. He ran for 121 yards and a touchdown. Note that he was struggling mightily early, but once he found a groove, Thompson was wheeling. With some time to prepare, I don’t expect him to look clueless in this game.
Louisville finished the regular season with 387 yards allowed for 59th in the nation. They closed out strong, though, allowing only 16 points per game over their final three games. Lamar Jackson needs just 183 yards of total offense to break the single-season school record, which he broke last season when he won the Heisman. Jackson will easily smash that if he doesn’t get injured. However, he does have a tough defense to play in the TaxSlayer Bowl. I think the Mississippi State defense will do enough to keep this a competitive game. There isn’t much tape on Thompson for Louisville to examine. Like Jackson, he’s going to look to run often. I’d side with the points here, which I expect to be a very competitive football game.