Liberty Bowl Prediction and Best Bet: Porous Pass Defense to Plague Texas Tech as Bulldogs Bag Big Bowl Win for Leach

Eddie Griffin

In terms of the matchup itself, the Liberty Bowl may not register with many as one of the top matchups of the college football bowl season. But in terms of storylines, it can’t be beaten by many of the remaining games.

Over a decade after a contentious departure from Texas Tech, Mike Leach faces the Red Raiders for the first time as his Mississippi State team takes on the Red Raiders in Memphis.

Leach still has a score to settle with his former employer, who he still feels owes him for his termination in 2009. Will the Bulldogs help him settle that score on the field?

Liberty Bowl Matchup Info and Betting Odds

Matchup Information

  • Game Matchup: Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-5, 4-4 SEC) vs Texas Tech Red Raiders (6-6, 3-6 Big 12)
  • Venue & Location: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium (Memphis, Tennessee)
  • Date: Tuesday, December 28, 2021
  • Time: 6:45 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN

Betting Odds

  • Spread: Mississippi State -10 (-110), Texas Tech +10 (-110)
  • Total: OVER 58.5 (-115), UNDER 58.5 (-105)
  • Moneyline: Mississippi State -375, Texas Tech +280

Odds are from BetMGM.

Liberty Bowl Betting Outlook

Leach will see some familiar faces on the opposite sideline in Memphis, including Texas Tech interim coach Sonny Cumbie. Cumbie, who has been interim coach since Matt Wells was fired in October, was Texas Tech’s starting quarterback in 2004 and a graduate assistant in Leach’s final season.

Any fondness there won’t mitigate how badly he will want this win, however. And you can be sure his players will be aware of the significance of this meeting.

But will motivation translate into a win for one of the strangest teams in college football? Mississippi State beat North Carolina State, Texas A&M, Kentucky, and Auburn during the season, so they are certainly no slouch. But they are in the Liberty Bowl and not a much more prominent bowl because of one-score losses to Memphis, LSU, and Arkansas.

Mississippi State is obviously going to throw, throw, and throw some more. Second-year QB Will Rogers is the latest from the Air Raid assembly line and made a big leap from year one to year two. Here’s how his numbers stack up for the season.

Season Statistics for Mississippi State QB Will Rogers

  • first in the FBS in completion percentage (75.1%)
  • second in completions (473), attempts (630), and yards (4,449), and
  • tied for ninth in touchdowns (35), setting school records in all of those categories.

Rogers also led the Bulldogs back from 20+ point deficits against Louisiana Tech and Auburn and nearly them back against Memphis, LSU, and Arkansas. So, he won’t be fazed even if Texas Tech pulls ahead.

Will the Red Raiders be able to slow Rogers down? The odds are not favorable. Texas Tech enters the Liberty Bowl as one of the worst teams in the FBS when it comes to defending the pass. And while Mississippi State will be missing top NFL Draft prospect Charles Cross at left tackle, the Red Raiders are also one of college football’s worst teams when it comes to getting the QB on the ground.

Assuming Texas Tech performs up to its season standard there, the Red Raiders will need to score to keep up. Freshman QB Donovan Smith did have some good moments after taking over. But over their last five games, the Red Raiders scored more than 24 points only once, in a win over Iowa State.

Whatever they do on offense, they will be doing it without leading receiver Erik Ezukanma. Ezukanma, who had 48 catches for 705 yards and four scores this season, opted out to prepare for the NFL Draft. Top Mississippi State cornerback Martin Emerson opted out for the same reason, so we won’t see the matchup that we could have there.

Liberty Bowl Prediction and Best Bet

Mississippi State 38, Texas Tech 26 (OVER 58.5)

Texas Tech will move the ball and score some points, but it won’t be enough to keep the Bulldogs from posting a comfortable win, at least in terms of margin.

As much as the Red Raiders will know that the ball will be in the air early and often, stopping it is an entirely different matter. I don’t anticipate Texas Tech doing that nearly enough to win this one. Another big day for Rogers and the Mississippi State aerial attack will help bring Leach a victory that he will certainly savor.

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