Miami has completed a great comeback to the season to match-up with the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the 2016 St. Petersburg Bowl.
Miami (OH) Redhawks
The Redhawks started the season 0-6, before finishing with six straight wins to become eligible. They were the first team ever to do this. Their wins over Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan are the only ones over bowl teams. Miami’s bad losses are to Eastern Illinois (FCS) and two bowl ineligible teams, Cincinnati and Akron.
Quarterback Gus Ragland is undefeated as a starter this season, helping the Redhawks win their last six games. The starter at the start of the season, Billy Bahl, got hurt, leaving Miami without many healthy quarterbacks. Ragland has thrown for 1,274 yards and 15 touchdowns on the season. He adds the ability to pick up some key yardage with his legs. The most impressive thing is that he has not thrown an interception so far in his college career. The ability to protect the football will be crucial in this game.
Ragland has a lot of targets to choose from. Leading receiver James Gardner, is hard to cover at six feet four inches tall. He has 658 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Jared Murphy has added 532 receiving yards and five more touchdowns. Rokeem Williams is a big play guy, with 21 yards per reception.
Two players get a lot of carries for Miami. Alonzo Smith has 689 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns on the season. Second on the team in carries, Kenny Young, has 490 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. Ultimately running the ball hasn’t been too kind for the Redhawks this season.
The Redhawks have an above average pass defense, giving up 215 passing yards per game. Run defense is good for Miami, as they allow just 140 rushing yards per game.
Defensive back Heath Harding leads the team with four interceptions on the season. The Redhawks need to win the turnover battle and Harding is the key. He has also added 65 total tackles to help the teams’ cause.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Mississippi State finished the regular season at 5-7, but was able to reach a bowl game due to their excellent academic progress rate. Their losses all came at the hands of bowl-eligible teams, but they should’ve been able to beat South Alabama. They were able to beat two bowl eligible teams: Texas A&M and South Carolina.
Nick Fitzgerald has done his best to fill in for a campus legend, Dak Prescott. He has had a solid first season as a starting college quarterback. Fitzgerald has thrown for 2,287 yards, 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The running game is also helped out by Fitzgerald, who is the teams’ leading rusher. He has 1,243 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns.
Fred Ross is the best receiver on the team and leads the Bulldogs with 12 receiving touchdowns. He also leads the team in receptions with 68 and receiving yards with 873. Donald Gray has added 691 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
Fitzgerald leads the rushing attack, but running back Aeris Williams helps out too. He finished with 656 yards rushing on 5.2 yards per carry. His four rushing touchdowns lead all running backs on the team. They use a lot of running backs to keep all of their legs fresh.
The Bulldogs allow 177 rushing yards per game, which is pretty average. The pass defense for Mississippi State though, is horrendous, allowing 283 yards per game.
Richie Brown has been a standout on the Bulldog defense with 93 total tackles. He only has 1.5 sacks on the year, compared to his 6.5 last season, but overall he has had a tremendous season.
Fitzgerald has gotten better as the season has gone on and will be the difference-maker in the game. Miami won’t be able to stop his dual-threat abilities and Brown will help shut down Ragland and the Redhawks.
Mississippi State Bulldogs 45 Miami Redhawks 28