The 2016 Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl sees the Mississippi State Bulldogs from the SEC take on the Miami Redhawks from the MAC.
The game takes place at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida at 11am ET on Monday 26th December. Tropicana Field is home of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team.
Last year saw Connecticut beat Marshall 16-10 on a field that was over watered that lead to many slips and mistakes by players in one of the duller bowl games of 2015.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
The Bulldogs qualified for a bowl game due to their Academic Progress Rate being higher than a number of other five win teams this year. The extra practices that come with qualifying for a bowl game are a great opportunity for this young team to get more reps together. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald showed some promise late in the season especially as a runner. Replacing Dak Prescott, who was one of the best quarterbacks in the country and one of the best Mississippi State had ever seen, was never going to be easy. Fitzgerald had seven games this season where he ran for over 100 yards despite not being the starter in the season opener against South Alabama.
They pulled out two big wins over Texas A&M and Ole Miss, to recover from 2-5 start to finish 5-7, which gave them the opportunity to be bowl eligible. Head coach Dan Mullen won’t be happy with how the season went, but this team certainly improved a lot during year.
The Miami team from Ohio flew under the radar for most of the year because they actually started the season 0-6. They had close losses to Western Kentucky, Cincinnati, and FCS program Eastern Illinois in non-conference play. An 18-14 win at home to Kent State proved to be a turning point, as the Redhawks won six straight to finish at 6-6. They even had some impressive double digit wins over teams like Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan who are also bowl eligible.
Miami had a 21-game losing streak before head coach Chuck Martin took over in 2014.The Redhawks won just five games over the past two seasons under Martin, but reaching bowl eligibility in his third season has certainly gained him some credibility.
They had three quarterbacks throw at least 50 passes this season, but Gus Ragland separated himself from the competition. He only started the final six games, which were all wins, whilst throwing 15 touchdowns and no interceptions. The sophomore has been an instant success in 2016 and makes Miami a sleeper pick to challenge the MAC East. This match-up with Mississippi State’s defense is the biggest test they’ll have faced so far.
Mississippi State 28, Miami Redhawks 21
The Bulldogs avoid a second loss to a Group of Five school in 2016 to finish a disappointing season on a high note. Mississippi State should be able to dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, but expect Miami to score a couple of big touchdowns to stay in the game.