The No. 22 Mississippi State Bulldogs will have heavy hearts when they face the Illinois Fighting Illini in an SEC vs. Big-10 matchup in the ReliaQuest Bowl on Monday in Tampa, Florida.
Bulldogs coach Mike Leach died on Dec. 11 because of what Mississippi State called “complications due to a heart condition.” Defensive coordinator Zach Arnett has been promoted to replace Leach.
The Bulldogs (8-4) are expected to continue to use Leach’s air raid offense behind veteran quarterback Will Rogers. Mississippi State finished the season with a big win in the Egg Bowl against Ole Miss. They struggled against the top of the SEC, losing to Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Kentucky.
Illinois (8-4) started the season 7-1 with big wins at Wisconsin and home against Iowa. They struggled down the stretch, losing three of their last four games to Michigan State, Purdue and Michigan.
Illini star running back Chase Brown opted out of the bowl to prepare for the NFL Draft. Brown had 1,643 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns this season.
Who will finish the season on a high note in the ReliaQuest Bowl?
Here’s everything you need from a betting perspective on the game between Mississippi State and Illinois, from the point spread, moneyline, total Over/Under and expert pick (odds via FOX Bet).
Read RJ Young’s full list of 2022-23 bowl game predictions and odds
Remembering Mike Leach
FOX Sports’ Joel Klatt reflects on the remarkable career of the late Mike Leach.
No. 22 Mississippi State vs Illinois (noon ET Monday, ESPN2)
Point spread: Mississippi State -2.5 (Mississippi State favored to win by more than 2.5 points, otherwise Illinois covers)
Moneyline: Mississippi State -133 (bet $10 to win $17.52 total); Illinois +105 underdog to win (bet $10 to win $20.50 total)
Total scoring Over/Under: 45.5 points scored by both teams combined
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Illinois Fighting Illini
Pick via FOX Sports NFL Analyst Sam Panayatonovich:
I have no idea who’s going to win this game.
Good start, huh?
But seriously, it’s a literal coin flip, and I could make a case for either side. It’s just so tough to handicap how Mississippi State will play after the death of head coach Mike Leach. It’s impossible to know what to expect.
I do feel pretty safe about both defenses, though. Illinois was one of the best scoring units in the country (12.3 points per game), and Bret Bielema’s defense is incredible against the run. Mississippi State ain’t too shabby, either, and the good news for the Bulldogs is that Illini star running back Chase Brown opted out for the NFL Draft.
This feels like a solid Under bet.
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