MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Georgia Tech is all about the run. Mississippi State is all about stopping the run.
That’s the matchup that will likely decide who wins the Orange Bowl on Wednesday, when the Yellow Jackets (10-3) take on the Bulldogs (10-2) in an absolute clash of styles.
No. 10 Georgia Tech has the nation’s second-ranked rushing offense. No. 8 Mississippi State has held seven of its 12 opponents under 125 yards on the ground.
“We’re going to do what we do and they’re going to do what they do,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. “It’s going to be a big challenge for both teams, I think. And it’ll probably end up somewhere in the middle.”
There are some similarities between the teams as well, including that both are trying to put aside some late disappointment.
Georgia Tech had Florida State in trouble at the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game, before losing by two points in yet another one that the Seminoles found a way to win this season. Mississippi State reached No. 1 in the country this year, with the Bulldogs looking like a team that could win the Southeastern Conference, and was on course to head to the inaugural College Football Playoff.
But in the end, there was no conference title for either.
For someone, winning the Orange Bowl will just have to do.
“We’ve just got to come out and start off fast,” Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott said. “Every game of the season we’ve started off fast we’ve done really well, set the tempo and made the other team play our style, and just have to do the same with Georgia Tech, get up on them and make them play from behind.”
There’s a very big bonus for Mississippi State to chase — a win would make this team the first in school history with 11 wins.
“We’re here as a reward for such a great season,” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. “But we’re also here to win a football game.”
Here’s what to watch in the Orange Bowl:
START FAST: It’s critical that Georgia Tech not find itself in a big hole early, one that would force the Yellow Jackets to abandon their game plan. Mississippi State has started fast all season, outscoring teams 106-35 in the opening quarter. If that form holds and Georgia Tech has to throw more than it wants, that’s a big edge for the Bulldogs.
DAK ATTACK: Some teams take their foot off the gas pedal on third downs. Not Mississippi State. Prescott has 17 third-down touchdowns this season with his arm and legs and will be going up against a Georgia Tech defense that allowed eight TDs on third downs all season.
AT LEAST 25: Georgia Tech has scored at least 25 points in every game so far this season, meaning its defense has a cushion to play with. The Yellow Jackets’ defense doesn’t have to be perfect — the team is 9-0 this season when allowing 28 or fewer points. But shootouts aren’t their forte: They’re 1-3 when giving up more than 28.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: The knock on Mississippi State’s defense is that it struggles against the pass. And yes, the Bulldogs have allowed 3,422 yards through the air this season, ranking 113th in the country. But look inside that number: Opponents had the 25th-worst quarterback rating against the Bulldogs, and teams threw a ton against them because hardly anyone had success in the ground game.
DEJA VU: It’s the second straight time that Georgia Tech’s season will end against a team from the Magnolia State. The Yellow Jackets were beaten 25-17 by Mississippi in last season’s Music City Bowl.