Here are three keys for Mississippi State in its Progressive Gator Bowl matchup with Michigan:
1. Win the turnover battle: It’s not real complicated for the Bulldogs. They’ve turned the ball over 12 times in their four losses this season and only eight times in their eight wins. Forcing turnovers has also been one of their fortes. They were tied for second this season in the SEC with 26 forced turnovers and will look to create some short fields for the offense in this game by forcing the Wolverines into mistakes.
2. Avoid third-and-long: The Bulldogs want to run the ball and be in a lot of third-and-3 and third-and-2 situations. Quarterback Chris Relf improved as a passer this season, but he’s much more effective when he has that run-pass option available to him. If he’s having to throw the ball down the field repeatedly because Mississippi State isn’t having success running the ball on first down, that’s not good news for the Bulldogs.
3. Wrap up and tackle: The Bulldogs need one of their best tackling efforts of the season. Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, who has 1,643 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, is one of those players who turns missed tackles into touchdowns. When the Bulldogs get to him, they better wrap him up. He has great moves in the open field and is just like a running back when it comes to making people miss.