Dec. 30
6:40 p.m.
ESPN                          Mississippi State vs Wake Forest

Offense: Wake Forest brings a pass happy offense that has slowed down over the second half of the season. QB Tanner Price has had a very good season for the Deamon Deacons, throwing for just under 3000 yards. He has a great receiver to throw to and that is Chris Givens. The junior leads the team with 1276 receiving yards. Brandon Pendergrass led the team on the ground with 8 touchdowns and 750 yards. The offensive line will be key as Wake will be going up against an SEC defense for the second consecutive game. It did not go so well last time, as the Deacs scored only 7 against Vanderbilt. Mississippi State has had a dissapointing season offensively. When asked in the preseason what he thought, head coach Dan Mullen was quoted as saying, "Forty-two points a game. I'd be satisfied with that." The Bulldogs scored only 25.5 points a game and won just 2 SEC games. Still, there is an immense amount of talent on this team. They will likely play two quarterbacks, with senior Chris Relf likely to get the start. Also look for Tyler Russell to get some playing time. RB Vick Ballard has carried much of the load for the Bulldogs this year, gaining over 1000 yards on the ground. They are not a great passing team, but Arceto Clark is the leading receiver with 404 yards.

Defense:  Wake Forest has given up 28 points a game in the ACC. They have been a conservative group, giving up many short to intermediate passes. Look for that to change this game as Wake may be more aggressive. Safety Cyhl Quarles leads the team in tackles with 96. Free safety Josh Bush is another leader in the secondary, with 6 interceptions and another 5 breakups. The Deamon Deacons must stay strong and not get pounded early. Miss State will likely try to enforce their will running the ball and Wake has to at least slow that down. Mississippi State brings into Nashville a defense that gives up under 20 points a game, ranking in the top 20 in the country. DT Fletcher Cox is a monster on the defensive line. He leads the Bulldogs with 12.5 tackles for loss. Cam Lawrence and Deontae Skinner anchor a very strong linebacking corps. This team will pressure Tanner Price like nobody has all season. I expect them to be effective.


The pick: I like Mississippi State to win this game. Their defense is too strong and I think they will be able to run the ball effectively. If you agree or disagree let me know why by tweeting me @bowlseason or emailing me at . I'll post them if you send them.






Martin Rickman, of Blogger so Dear, a blog devoted to Wake Forest athletics, answered some questions for us.



BS: The Deamon Deacons went 4-1 to start and finished 2-5. What changed over the second half of the year and how would you assess the season overall?

Martin Rickman: Nothing particularly changed over the second half of the year; Wake just played better teams and its lack of depth was exposed. The Demon Deacons don’t have a lot of reliable defensive personnel, so when second units got in or players had to step up due to injury, there was a definite drop-off.

As far as the season as a whole, the second half skid is a bit disappointing. The Deacs had a golden opportunity to go from a three-win team a year ago to appearing in the ACC Championship game with a win over Clemson. The Deacs largely choked that game away in the second half, and that along with winnable games against Syracuse and Notre Dame, hurt a little bit.

The irony is that had Wake won the Clemson game, but lost the ACCCG, the Deacs would probably be in a worse bowl than the Music City Bowl. So all things considered, six wins, a good bowl and a lot of returning talent next year gives the fanbase some real positives to look forward to.


BS: The offense was more of a passing attack. Talk about QB Tanner Price's season and who are his top weapons?

Martin Rickman: Tanner Price is a Texas QB, through and through. He has a big arm, is not afraid to make throws in tight windows, feels pressure, but stays in the pocket, and can get out and run a little bit. He has some incredible receivers to throw it to, including Chris Givens, who might declare for the draft after the game. Givens would likely be a second or third round pick depending on measurable and the combine, and has had an All-ACC season. Michael Campanaro is a bigtime playmaker as well.


BS: The defense struggled, including giving up 41 to Vanderbilt in the final game of the season. What does this unit have to do to slow down Mississippi State and who are the key players?

Martin Rickman: The defense needs to come up on the Mississippi State receivers and not give them a cushion. By pressing, there’s the chance that the Bulldogs throw over the top, but it stops the intermediate routes that Wake tends to give up with regularity. I expect MSU to try and exert dominance running the football, and that means guys like Nikita Whitlock have to have a nose for the football and break to the ball early.

Whitlock, safety Josh Bush, cornerback Bud Noel (who suffered an injury in practice on Wednesday and is questionable) and LB Kyle Wilber are the ones to keep an eye on.


BS: If you could choose one player to have a breakout performance in the bowl game, who would it be?

Martin Rickman: It’s a bit of a wildcard at this point to go with him seeing as there have been conflicting reports about whether or not he will even get extended work, but I have to go with running back Josh Harris. Harris hasn’t had a chance to be healthy since the beginning of the year, and the month of seems to have given him renewed vigor. Unfortunately, the injury bug has him down on the depth chart. It’s Brandon Pendergrass’s last game as a Demon Deacon, so he’ll get a ton of carries, but I have to believe that Harris will work his way into the mix with a couple big runs and earn back Coach Grobe’s trust. If not, the second batch of carries will go to Orville Reynolds, a speedy freshman who has given the Demon Deacons some nice looks late in the year.



Thanks a lot to Martin Rickman. Check his work out at and follow @MartinRickman .








Jeremy Flint, (The Bruce Dickinson), of For Whom The Cowbell Tolls, a blog devoted to Miss State sports, answered some questions for us.


BS: The Bulldogs went just 2-6 in a year where more success was expected. What went wrong this year and how would you rate this season overall?

Jeremy Flint: I would give the season probably a B-. There are definitely a few games we lost that we had the opportunity to win, and probably should have (Auburn, South Carolina). But when you look back, we played through the toughest division, in the toughest conference in college football, and held some of the nations top teams in check for 80-85% of those games.
BS: The offense was able to run the ball, but could not really pass. Who is going to be the quarterback during the bowl game and who are the other top weapons?

Jeremy Flint: I think you will see Chris Relf get the start in Nashville. He is a senior, and Mullen will likely give him a chance to lead his team to victory one last time. Tyler Russell has had some knee issues lately, but I think you will see him a good bit as well. Mullen likes to mix it up under center, for better or worse.
Look for Vick Ballard to carry a majority of the load out of the backfield, along with LaDarius Perkins. Also look for some catches down field by Chris Smith and Chad Bumphis.
BS: The defense was very good, giving up under 20 points a game. What makes the group so good and who are the key players?
Jeremy Flint: I think they are just a tough group of men and our coordinator (Chris Wilson) was able to put in the proper schemes to control the line. Fletcher Cox is a beast on the line, and Kaleb Eulls has been very impressive despite his youth.
Our linebacker corps has really played well this year despite losing two starters to graduation (and the NFL draft). Losing a player with the experience of K.J Wright at OLB really had a lot of fans worrying, but Cam Lawrence and Deonte Skinner really stepped up and brought a lot of strength to that position
BS: If you could choose one player to have a breakout performance in the bowl game, who would it be?

Jeremy Flint: Vick Ballard. He has been such a weapon on offense, and I would love to seem him rack up another 200 yards on the ground and a few touchdowns in his last game in maroon and white.
Thanks a lot to Jeremy Flint. Check his work out at and follow @jeremyflint

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