Tulsa Golden Hurricane vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs Pick – Armed Forces Bowl December 31, 2020

There are three college football bowl games scheduled for New Year’s Eve on Thursday. There is no evening primetime game, which would have been nice in a year when more people are staying home. It used to be the Chick-fil-A Bowl that closed out the year. The Peach Bowl, which made a comeback under Chick-fil-A sponsorship, will be played on New Year’s Day.

That should be a good one between the Georgia Bulldogs and Cincinnati Bearcats. I’m not too thrilled about betting that game, I’ll probably pass, but excited to watch to see how things play out. Cincinnati were embarrassed in 2009 against Florida, another SEC team, the last time they had a marquee bowl. We’ll see if anything has changed in 11 years.

The Tulsa Golden Hurricane and Mississippi State Bulldogs will meet in the Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium to get the day started on Thursday afternoon. If you are on the west coast, this is an early start time in the morning at 9:00 a.m. PST. This might not be the most exciting matchup between Tulsa and Mississippi State, but I always think the small conference schools against a Power Five conference provides some intrigue.

It’s a very good measuring stick for the team from the smaller conference team. Mike Leach needs time to implement his air-raid offense, hence the record of 3-7, but the Bulldogs still have SEC talent on their roster. Implementing an air-raid doesn’t happen overnight. They started off with a bang, beating the defending national champs by a score of 44-34 against the LSU Tigers.

While the Bulldogs were competitive in some games, such as a loss against Georgia, 31-24, Texas A&M, 28-14, and Ole Miss, 31-24, a record of 3-7 shouldn’t result in a bowl game. This isn’t any kind of normal college football season, so the Bulldogs get a free pass to the Armed Forces bowl. Tulsa, on the other hand, deserves a spot in a bowl. The Golden Hurricane went 6-2 this season, which included a trip to the AAC Championship.

Tulsa fought hard in that game and came close to pulling off a sizable upset, though it always felt like they were battling uphill. Cincinnati ultimately held on for a 27-24 win to preserve their perfect record and trip to the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Day. The Golden Hurricane faces another worthy opponent in the Armed Forces Bowl on Thursday. Head below for our free Tulsa vs. Mississippi State on December 31, 2020 in the Armed Forces Bowl.

Tulsa Golden Hurricane vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs Armed Forces Bowl Betting Odds:

Spread:

  • Tulsa -1.5 (-107)
  • Mississippi St. +1.5 (-113)
Moneyline:

  • Tulsa -117
  • Mississippi St. -103
Total:

  • Over 45 (-107)
  • Under 45 (-113)

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Tulsa vs. Mississippi State Prediction:

It’s going to take two or three years for Mississippi State to get their offense going at full speed. The personnel that Mike Leach has right now is not ideal for what he wants to accomplish in the air-raid. The question begs whether the air-raid can work in the SEC. Maybe a decade ago that’d be true, but the defense in the SEC is not what it used to be. It will be interesting to see how the offense works out at Mississippi State when he gets his own guys to Starkville.

The defense has been playing at a high level, though. If the Mississippi State offense gets going, and they don’t regress defensively, the Bulldogs are going to be a threat. Mississippi State allowed an average of 380.3 yards and 28.3 points per game.

Mississippi State might be a 3-7 team, but their defense has shown up to play. They’re fourth in the SEC defensively. The Bulldogs have been consistent across the board, with a fairly decent ability to stop the pass and run. They allowed an average of 255 yards through the air and 125.3 rushing yards per game. Expect Mississippi State to limit the Golden Hurricane in this one.

The Bulldogs held up pretty well against some good offenses this season. The dangerous Ole Miss offense was held to 31 points in the Egg Bowl on November 28. No. 5 Texas A&M managed just 28 points on October 16, and while Alabama scored 41 points, I’d have to say that wasn’t that bad of a beating the Crimson Tide have handed most teams this season.

The offense came through Mississippi State against the Missouri Tigers. Something finally clicked for them, and they poured it on with Will Rogers at the controls. Rogers passed for 295 yards with 3 touchdowns and 1 interception in a 51-32 win. 51 points is what you expect from a Leach led offense. Tulsa were solid defensively this year, having allowed 340.8 yards and 20.8 points a game. They didn’t have to deal with the offenses that Mississippi State did, though.

This one is likely going to be a solid defensively affair between Tulsa and Mississippi State. If Rogers plays like he did against Mizzou, then big edge to Mississippi State here. They might be just a slight underdog, but it’s hard not to take an SEC team with a much more difficult schedule getting points. I like Mississippi State to finish strong and go into the offseason with some confidence.

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The Bet
MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS +1.5
Kyle E / Author

Kyle is a veteran of The Sports Geek and has spent nearly a decade providing accurate sports picks and writeups here. He has been a sports handicapper for 10+ years and started sharing his picks and thoughts in 2011 at The Sports Geek. His expertise spans across multiple sports, including the NFL, NCAAF, MLB, and the NHL. Prior to writing for The Sports Geek, Kyle was a fantasy football expert, who ultimately parlayed it into a successful sports betting career. You can find his picks daily at The Sports Geek.