Mississippi State almost didn't make a bowl this year, needing a hair-raising win against Ole Miss in the final game of the season to become eligible for the postseason. But they got there, and now they will play the Rice Owls in the Liberty Bowl. Rice also got in on its last game, when it beat the Marshall Thundering Herd to win Conference USA.
The Owls' 16th-ranked rushing offense could test Mississippi State's 46th-ranked rushing defense. But it's hard to take too much away from the Owls' performance up to this point. No, the Western Division Bulldogs aren't the best team in the SEC by any stretch of the imagination, but the CUSA is not exactly on the same level as the SEC. And you really don't have to be a chest-thumping ESS EEE SEE fan to know that. On the other hand, Rice's defense is better at stopping the pass than the run, which means that it's not exactly geared to stop Mississippi State at what the Bulldogs do best.
The Autozone Liberty Bowl airs Dec. 31 at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN.