TaxSlayer Bowl – Louisville Cardinals vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Date and Time: Saturday, December 30, 2017, 12:00 p.m. ET
Location: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, FL
Opening TaxSlayer Bowl Odds: Louisville -5, O/U 61.5
TaxSlayer Bowl TV Coverage: ESPN
The Cardinals had high hopes this season with Lamar Jackson at quarterback, but Louisville couldn’t beat Clemson and they suffered tough losses to NC State, Boston College, and Wake Forest. Louisville went 8-4 straight up this season, but they were just 5-7 against the spread. They went over the total six times and under six times. They scored 39 points per game and gave up 27 points per contest.
Louisville is all about Jackson who rushed for 1,443 yards and threw for 3,489 yards. He had another great season but it would have taken something beyond comprehension for him to win the Heisman again. The Louisville defense wasn’t that good this season, but they don’t figure to face much of a test against a Mississippi State team missing their quarterback.
The Bulldogs went 8-4 straight up and 7-5 against the spread. They will be without Mullen who had coached the team since 2009. Taking over will be Penn State’s offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead but he will not coach the bowl game. The Bulldogs lost four games this season but two of them were to Georgia and Alabama. The problem for Mississippi State in the bowl game is that Fitzgerald will not play. That means freshman Keytaon Thompson will get the start. He will be handing the ball off a lot to running backs Aeris Williams (1019 yards this year), Kylin Hill and Nick Gibson.
Mississippi State averaged 32 points per game this season and gave up 20 points per contest. They will not have defensive coordinator Todd Grantham who left with Mullen to Florida. The Bulldogs were solid on defense this season, but they needed Grantham in this game, as he used to coach at Louisville and would have had some good strategies to slow down Jackson.
The Cardinals are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games overall. The Cardinals are 1-6-1 ATS in their last 8 non-conference games. The Bulldogs are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 vs. the ACC.
The Under is 5-0-1 in the Cardinals last 6 neutral site games. The Over is 4-1 in the Bulldogs last 5 vs. the ACC.
TaxSlayer Bowl Free Picks
Bettors have been taking Louisville in this game at top online sportsbooks, as the number opened at 5 and went to 7 before coming back down to 6.5. The total opened at 61 and is up to 63. How is Mississippi State going to stop Louisville in this game? How are the Bulldogs going to score enough points to stay with the Cardinals? Will Mississippi State even be motivated to win without a number of their coaches no longer with the team? If Fitzgerald was playing then perhaps this game could turn into a shootout and the Bulldogs might have a chance. Without him they should get routed. Louisville has far too much offensive firepower for Mississippi State who is playing without their defensive coordinator. On the other side of the ball, the Louisville defense, which normally isn’t that great, should be able to stack the line against the run and keep the Bulldogs in check. It is always somewhat of a concern when a game looks too easy, but Louisville has all of the edges in this contest. I will lay the points and take the Cardinals.
TaxSlayer Bowl ATS Pick: Louisville -6.5 at BookMaker.eu
TaxSlayer Bowl Score Prediction: Louisville 40, Mississippi State 20