In a clash of conferences that might normally produce a mismatch, the Conference USA's Rice, which won 10 of 13 including the league championship, battles the SEC's Mississippi State (6-6), which won its last two games just to become bowl eligible.
The power conference gets the respect from the oddsmakers, as the Liberty Bowl odds favor the Bulldogs.
Point spread: Bulldogs opened as 7.5-point favorites; the total was 51.5. (Line updates and matchup report)
Odds Shark computer prediction: 32.1-26.1 Owls
Why Rice can cover the Liberty Bowl spread
This might be one of the most motivated college football teams coming into the postseason, as the Owls are enjoying a storied season after winning their first outright championship since 1957 with an impressive—and dominating—win over Marshall in the title game. This team has done special things over the past two seasons, winning 17 games combined and now has a chance to close this campaign with a win over an SEC foe.
By using the nation's 16th-best rushing game, Rice can control the clock and the pace of this game, while keeping Mississippi State's offense stagnant while waiting on the sidelines. Underdogs have dominated the Liberty Bowl betting odds situation (7-2 against the spread) over the past decade.
Why Mississippi State can cover the Liberty Bowl spread
The Bulldogs, who covered four straight spreads to end the season, have conceivably played a tougher schedule than Rice. That always makes a difference in the postseason in college football and could be the case in this game. After all, how else do you explain a six-win team laying a touchdown to a 10-win team?
Mississippi State is loaded with experience and will be making its fourth straight trip to a bowl game, so confidence won't be hard to come by with the Bulldogs. Their defense was stellar down the stretch, allowing just four touchdowns over their last three games.
They have won five of their past six bowl games and look to buck that trend of underdog winners.
Mississippi State has won five of its last six trips to a bowl, but laying -7 to the Owls is a big mistake. The motivated underdog is the wise move. Rice, which has won and covered its last two bowl games, will relish the opportunity to prove everybody wrong—especially the oddsmakers who made this line.
Senior Charles Ross will be the star of this game. The power running back rushed for 1,252 yards and 14 touchdowns this season and his downhill style will overwhelm the Dawgs.
- Favorites just 2-7 ATS past 9 Liberty Bowls
- Rice won and covered past two bowl games
- Mississippi State is 5-1 SU in bowls since 1999
- Bulldogs covered four straight spreads to end the season