NCAAF
December 28, 2021

Mississippi State Bulldogs vs Texas Tech Red Raiders: 2021 AutoZone Liberty Bowl Gambling Guide - Dec. 28

We are on to the third bowl game of the day as the Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-5) will take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders (6-6) at the Liberty Bowl.

This game may not be the greatest matchup as one team has the advantage on the field, and in the motivation department. Well, one head coach has the advantage in the motivation department. Either way, it is college football, and we do not have many more games this season. 

Savor these moments folks, football season will be over before you realize that we are about to enter the year 2022. Anyway, let's get into the best bet for the Liberty Bowl.

If you decided to gamble, we would love for you to tail our picks. If you do that, we just ask that you do so responsibly.

How do these teams match up, and who has the edge? Well, let's find out.

Why Mississippi State Can Cover:

Betting Trends:

  • 5-1 ATS in last six games
  • 7-5 ATS this season
  • The total has gone OVER in four of the last five games
  • 6-2 SU in last eight games as the favorite

Mississippi State runs the Air-Raid, and under Mike Leach, there are not many schools that do it better. The Air-raid is exactly how it sounds. Four receivers split out wide with one running back, and a whole lot of passing the football. 

As a whole, the Mississippi State offense is 55th in scoring (28.7), 31st in total yards per game (435.9), and 72nd in yards per play (5.5). If we break it down to just the passing and rushing stats, it is a funny difference. 

The rushing attack is led by running back Dillon Johnson, who had a team-high 423 yards rushing on 5.3 yards per rush this season. While Johnson is the leading rusher, Jo'quavious Marks led the team in carries (101). Neither of their numbers are impressive, but they were never going to be a rushing team. The Bulldogs are 130th in rush play percentage (27%), rushes per game (21.4), and rushing yards per game (60.0).

The passing attack, however, is a much different story. Quarterback Will Rogers showed a lot of improvement in his sophomore season as he completed 75.1% of his passes for 4,449 yards and 35 touchdowns. He is the main reason that Mississippi State is the No.1 team in the country in pass play percentage (73%), completion percentage (74%), and passes per game (55.0)

Defensively, Mississippi State is as solid of a unit as you would imagine an Air-Raid team has. They are only allowing 26.6 points per game, and the front seven is ranked 24th in yards per rush (3.6) and 10th in rushing yards per game (107.2).

If you are looking for a mental edge in this game, Leach still feels slighted when he was fired from Texas Tech and was not paid the money he was owed about a decade ago, so Mississippi State might be going for the head in this one.

Holding a grudge for over 10+ years is a sign that Leach is going to try and humiliate the Red Raiders, and I am all for it.

Why Texas Tech Can Cover

Betting Trends:

  • 1-5 ATS in last six games played in December
  • 6-5-1 ATS this season
  • The total has gone UNDER in four of the last six games
  • 1-5 SU in last six games as an underdog

There were a lot of expectations in Lubbock this season. Quarterback Tyler Shough transferred from Oregon and was supposed to be a future first-round pick. The Red Raiders started the season 3-0, and they even picked up a win over Houston to start the season. 

The 3-0 start quickly met its end with a 70-35 loss to Texas. Ever since then, Texas Tech just could not find any sort of consistency. Everything went completely sideways when Shough went down with a season-ending injury. Redshirt freshman Donovan Smith took over for the final three games, and he was tasked to keep the Red Raiders afloat during the toughest portion of their schedule. 

In his first start, Texas Tech went on to beat Iowa State, but then back-to-back losses to Oklahoma State, and Baylor brought Smith and Texas Tech back down to earth. This team just does not have one thing they can turn to for a big win. Sure, they pick up 8.6 yards per pass and are 28th in the country in passing yards per game, but that was mostly with Shough taking the snaps. 

The passing game will also take a hit with leading receiver Erik Ezukanma opting out for the NFL Draft. Outside of him, there is not a lot of production in the receiver room. Kaylon Geiger and Myles Price are the only two receivers outside of Ezukanma with over 300 yards receiving.

Still, the Red Raiders have proven this season that they will play up with top talent. They beat Houston during Week 1, and then played teams like Iowa State, Baylor, West Virginia, and Kansas State tough. 

They might not have enough to keep up with the Air-Raid, but with such a large spread, the door is always open for a backdoor cover late in the game.

Liberty Bowl Best Bet:

*Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook

Does this game just scream "over" to anyone else? The total has gone under the number in four of the last six for Texas Tech, but three of those games (Oklahoma State, Baylor, Iowa State) were against top 50 defenses.

I have no worries about the Bulldogs putting up points in this game. According to the Action Network, Mississippi State is seventh in pass success and fourth in pass blocking. The Texas Tech defense is 112th against the pass, 105th in scoring, and 102nd in yards per pass. Like I said earlier, Leach will be out for blood, and we should expect him and Mississippi State to light up the scoreboard. 

Still, 9.5 points is a lot to take for a team that went 7-5 ATS this season. Give me the over. I want points, and so do you. 

Pick: OVER 58.5 (-112)

Photo: Getty Images