Capital One Orange Bowl Preview: Georgia Tech vs. Mississippi State


We’ve got college football back here on the site, even if it might just be for a few days. While the Georgia Bulldogs will take on the Louisville Cardinals tonight in the Belk Bowl, Paul Johnson’s Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are getting ready for a showdown with the No. 7 Mississippi State Bulldogs tomorrow night in the Capital One Orange Bowl. This matchup will be the biggest challenge for the Jackets the entire year aside from their ACC Championship game against Florida State, and with weeks to prepare for Tech’s triple-option offense, the Bulldogs could prove even deadlier.

Opponent: Mississippi State Bulldogs

Time/TV: December 31, 8:00 pm ET, ESPN

Tech Offense vs. Mississippi State Defense

Telling you that Georgia Tech’s offense was really good this season isn’t any real news.

Justin Thomas lead the Jackets to the No. 1 offense in the conference and the No. 2 rushing offense in the entire country behind only Navy, with 333.6 rushing yards per game.

Still, Tech’s offensive success comes from effectively using Johnson’s flexbone triple-option, and that strategy takes quite a bit of a hit when the opposing defense has a full month to prepare for it. The preparation that the Bulldogs have will definitely be a game changer in this one, and Johnson should be throwing in a few different looks to keep Mississippi State on their toes.

The Bulldogs also have the advantage of having two NFL-ready defensive linemen in Chris Jones and Preston Smith, so a good Georgia Tech offensive line will be put to the test. Mississippi State brings in the No. 25 rushing defense to this game, while their passing defense has been… pretty bad. They’ve given up 285.2 passing yards per game this season (121st in the country) and with that, it will be interesting to see how often Thomas is allowed to let fly.

The Jackets threw the ball just over 14 times per game this season, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that number is higher for tomorrow’s matchup.

More from Georgia Tech Football

Tech Defense vs. Mississippi State Offense

This is the side of the ball that Tech fans should worry about–which has been the case for the entire season.

It’s not that the Jackets have been bad on defense… they just aren’t very good. And against Florida State, we saw what the unit is capable of against one of the nation’s top offenses. Not a whole lot.

And while the Bulldogs don’t bring the firepower that Jameis Winston and the Seminoles bring, Dak Prescott is no joke.

The big man threw for 2,996 yards with a 61.2 percent completion percentage with 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He ran for 939 yards (averaging 4.9 per rush) and scored 13 touchdowns with his feet–which led the team.

Those numbers stack up extremely similarly to Winston’s, and while he might not be�as much�of a threat in the pocket, he could be the best rushing quarterback in college football this season.

On top of Prescott, the Jackets will have to try and slow down running back Josh Robinson, who’s rushed for 1,128 yards this season and averaged an impressive 5.5 yards per carry.

When you look at Tech’s defense and see that they have been the 64th-best passing defense and 69th-best rushing defense… well it starts to look a bit daunting.


Mississippi State is undoubtedly the favorite heading into this bowl game, and with good reason. Tech is much-improved from last season and has proven that it can hang with quality teams, but the team only goes as far as Thomas and the offense carry it–and with the Bulldogs having a month to prepare for the triple-option, my expectations for that unit go down pretty substantially. Tech could certainly pick up a win in the Orange Bowl, but the defense would have to perform better than they have at any point this season, and Paul Johnson will probably need a few tricks up his sleeve on the offensive side.

Stay tuned for post-game coverage, and a live game thread that will open on Saturday morning. Check it out!