Progressive Gator Bowl: Michigan (7-5) vs. Mississippi State (8-4)

Michigan is back in a bowl game for the first time in three seasons. The Wolverines' last trip to the Sunshine State worked out well, and they'll try to end an up-and-down season on a good note.

Here's a look at Michigan's matchup against Mississippi State in the Progressive Gator Bowl.

WHO TO WATCH: Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson. Who else? One of the most exciting players in college football returns to his home state and will try to lead Michigan to a much-needed victory. Robinson's health has improved in the past five weeks after getting banged around throughout the regular season, and it will be interesting to see if he can recapture his big-play ability. Mississippi State defends the run well, so Robinson will need to showcase his arm and take good care of the football.

WHAT TO WATCH: The Wolverines' young defense. Michigan has played more true freshmen and more young players on defense than it ever imagined before the season, and the results have showed. The good news: a long layoff before the bowl has provided valuable practice time for the Wolverines' defenders, who need to upgrade their fundamentals and techniques for a good Mississippi State offense. If Michigan can create a turnover or two and find ways to get off of the field on third down early in the game, it could slow down the Bulldogs.

WHY WATCH: In case you haven't heard, Rich Rodriguez might be coaching for his job at Michigan. Rodriguez's future remains uncertain heading into the bowl game, and he certainly could help his cause by sending an improved product onto the field. Michigan is 8-0 in nonconference games under Rodriguez the past two seasons and should benefit from the lengthy layoff before the bowl. A convincing win against Mississippi State could buy Rodriguez more time, while a poor showing might send him packing.

PREDICTION: Mississippi State 34, Michigan 28. Robinson will do some damage on home soil, but I don't have enough faith in Michigan's defense or the defensive coaching staff to see a substantial improvement for the bowl game. Dan Mullen is a terrific offensive coach who will find the fairly obvious weaknesses in the Wolverines' defense. Michigan keeps it close, but Mississippi State wins.