MetroBet offers up advice and odds on two key New Year's Day bowl battles.
Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs (-7)
Moneyline: Hawkeyes +235, Bulldogs -275
Betting Total: 42 points
Time (Eastern), TV: Noon, ESPN2
Points could be at a premium in the first bowl game of 2019, the Outback Bowl, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL. The Mississippi State Bulldogs boast the nation’s top defense by points per game allowed (12.0), while the Iowa Hawkeyes were 11th by the same measure (17.4).
Nate Stanley was a competent passer for the Hawkeyes this year, producing a 23-9 TD-INT ratio, but his completion rate (58.6 percent) and yards per attempt (7.2) suggest that he won’t be able to lead Iowa effectively against such a stingy defense. Mekhi Sargent and Toren Young comprise a decent running back corps for the Hawkeyes, but Iowa’s rushing attack was just 75th by yards per game this season.
Dual threat quarterback Nick Fitzgerald leads the way for the Bulldogs. He ran almost as many times as he threw in 2018 and was the club’s leading rusher by yards (1,018) and TDs (12). Mississippi State’s offense isn’t exactly explosive though, as they were held below 10 points numerous times in this campaign.
The SEC’s Bulldogs seemingly have the advantage over the Big 10’s Hawkeyes. But the Under (42 points) is the safer play.
Prediction: Mississippi State wins, 20-10
The play: Iowa vs. Mississippi State Under 42 points
Kentucky Wildcats vs. Penn State Nittany Lions (-6.5)
Moneyline: Wildcats +205, Nittany Lions -245
Betting Total: 47 points
Time (Eastern), TV: 1 p.m., ABC
Much like the Outback Bowl, the Citrus Bowl (at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, FL) could see a low-scoring SEC-Big 10 affair as the 14th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats square off with the 12th-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions. The Under has cashed in six of the last nine Kentucky games, while Penn State has gone below the total four straight times.
The Nittany Lions’ stoppers have been front-and-center in the program’s last three victories, surrendering a total of 20 points. The Wildcats have struggled mightily on offense at times this season, as they were just 84th in points per game (26.6). They’ll go as far as running back Benny Snell Jr. can take them. Per oddsshark.com, Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson could be under fire all game long, as Penn State was tops in the country in sacks per game (3.58), while the Wildcats’ line was 114th in sacks allowed by percentage of dropbacks (9.5).
As long as senior quarterback Trace McSorley is careful with the football and is content to grind out drives with tailback Miles Sanders, the Nittany Lions should prevail. Kentucky was eighth in points per game allowed this season, but 44th at stopping the run.
Prediction: Penn State wins, 23-14
The play: Kentucky vs. Penn State Under 47 points