Mississippi State QB Will Rogers (2) is seen in the 2022 Egg Bowl at Ole Miss’ Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss., Thursday, November 24, 2022.
- Mississippi State is a 2.5-point favorite vs Illinois in the ReliaQuest Bowl
- The Fighting Illini are missing major pieces from their powerful defense
- See below for Mississippi State vs Illinois odds, analysis and our betting prediction
Can the Air Raid offense take off against one of the best defenses in college football?
That will be one of the many intriguing matchups when the Mississippi State Bulldogs (8-4), tangle with the Illinois Fighting Illini (8-4) in the 2022 ReliaQuest Bowl.
Emotions should run high for State, who will play their first game since the passing of head coach Mike Leach. Defensive coordinator Zach Arnett will hold the role for their final game of the season and into next season as well.
This neutral site game takes place Monday (Jan 2) at 12pm ET from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, FL. You can watch it live on ESPN2.
2022 ReliaQuest Bowl Odds
|Mississippi State Bulldogs||-2.5 (-110)||-128||Ov 45.5 (-110)|
|Illinois Fighting Illini||+2.5 (-110)||+106||Un 45.5 (-110)|
Odds as of Jan 1 at FanDuel. Claim the FanDuel Sportsbook promo code to bet on the Mississippi State vs Illinois game.
There are a bevy of roster subtractions that could alter the landscape of this game, and may already have, as the Bulldogs are touted as 2.5-point favorites, with a total of 45.5.
Bulldogs’ Betting Outlook
Mississippi State has not played a game since Nov 24, when they beat Ole Miss 24-20. They ended the year 3-3, but those losses were all against heavy hitters in the SEC, including Georgia, Alabama and Kentucky.
The Bulldogs put 32.7 points per game, good for 35th in the nation. There’s no question how they get it done offensively: Mississippi State spins it. They put up the 8th-best passing attack in the NCAA, averaging 314.3 yards per game.
Quarterback Will Rogers had himself a season, throwing for 3,713 yards (8th) and 34 touchdowns (7th), against just six interceptions.
Will Rogers can fill it up through the air 😮💨 pic.twitter.com/EW64UsgTQl
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 1, 2022
He’ll be down a weapon, as leading receiver Rara Thomas has hit the transfer portal, taking his 44 receptions, 626 yards and seven majors with him.
There’s literally no other option, as the ground game generates only 78.8 yards a contest, a lowly 130th in the 131-team FBS. It won’t help that running back Dillon Johnson has entered the portal as well.
The Bulldogs’ top-40 defense will also take a hit, as corner Emmanuel Forbes will sit as he prepares for the NFL draft. The junior had six interceptions, taking three back to the house for scores.
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Fighting Illini Betting Outlook
Illinois built it’s rep this year on a dominating defense, but they’ll be lacking major pieces when they take the field Monday.
A D that allowed the fewest points per game in the country (12.2) and the fifth-fewest passing yards (165.4) will be without cornerbacks Devon Witherspoon and Sydney Brown.
The pair were named to the All-Big Ten first team, and each is slated to get picked in the upcoming NFL Draft. If that’s not enough, the architect of that defense, coordinator Ryan Walters, has accepted the head coaching job at Purdue.
If the #Bears draft a CB early this year, I want it to be Devon Witherspoon from Illinois.
• 3 INT, 14 PBU this year
• 92.0 PFF coverage grade, best in FBS
• 29.8% completions allowed, 1.0 QBR against
• Makes hits like this pic.twitter.com/yza0A3vJFu
— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) December 15, 2022
Illinois hasn’t played since Nov 26, but it was their best offensive game of the year, hammering Northwestern 41-3. On the year, they’re putting up 25.4 points per game (83rd). Their pass game generated just 208.3 yards per game, which ranked 95th.
Their run game, which put up 178.3 yards, good for 48th in the FBS, has been severely compromised as well, as running back Chase Brown will opt out as he prepares for the NFL Draft.
Brown was the centerpiece of the offense, running for 1,643 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. Reggie Love III steps into the lead back role, but he had just 59 carries for 277 yards on the year.
Mississippi State vs Illinois Prediction
Both teams are a sparkling 3-0-1 against the spread in their last four non-conference games. While the Bulldogs are just 1-5 ATS in their last five neutral site games, the roster flux for the Illini puts them in a prime position.
Of the Illini’s four losses this year, three were when they surrendered more than 208 pass yards. That’s a figure the Bulldogs failed to eclipse just once this year.
With Illinois’ two best defenders in the secondary gone, Rogers should be able to find enough holes to puncture the Fighting Illini’s vaunted defense.
- Mississippi State -2.5 (-110); 1.5 units to win 1.31 units
- NCAAF Overall Record: 9-9 ATS, 1-0 ML, 2-3 o/u; -1.15 units
Having worked in and around sports since 1997, Eric is truly a knowledgeable expert. The two-time journalism grad specializes in all things NBA and NFL. From TSN.ca to CTV’s Olympic Broadcast Consortium, Eric’s work has appeared in local and national publications alike.
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