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Music City Bowl: Mississippi State 23, Wake Forest 17 -- The Defense and Ballard Make for a Great Tune

Aside from the nation's 19th-ranked scoring defense, there was nothing much to commend the Mississippi State defense before they took the field Friday night. The Western Division Bulldogs were in the bottom half of the SEC in most of the defensive measures for SEC teams, and while that might have looked average to above-average on the national lists, it wasn't impressive in one of the worst offensive years for the SEC in recent memory.

And while Wake Forest wasn't exactly what you would call an offensive juggernaut, it's still hard to take any credit away from what that little-heralded defense did in the Music City Bowl. Playing alongside a Mississippi State offense that coughed up the ball for four turnovers, the Bulldogs' defense simply decided to shut the Deacons down.

Mississippi State's defense allowed just 64 rushing yards on 38 carries, a 1.7-yard average. Combined with the 224 yards passing the Bulldogs allowed, that gave Wake Forest a season-low 288 total yards of offense. The State offense could take it from there.

And Vick Ballard did most of that taking. Ballard had 180 yards on 14 carries, for a jaw-dropping 12.9 yards a carry. He also had two touchdowns, one a 72-yard carry and the other a 60-yard tote. Chris Relf's limited efficiency -- he had two interceptions to one touchdown and only 129 yards while going 12-of-19 -- was easily offset by Ballard's huge finale as a Bulldog.

Which might be the most concerning thing for Mississippi State as the season comes to a close: Perhaps their most potent offensive player is now headed for the NFL. But he was able to power them into the win column one last time Friday night, with a big helping hand from the defense.