December 2, 2012 5:04:53 PM
STARKVILLE - For the second time in three seasons, the Mississippi State University football team will be spending its New Year's Day in Jacksonville, Fla.
The Bulldogs (8-4) have accepted an invitation to the 2013 Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl to face Northwestern University on Jan. 1, 2013. The MSU program last spent New Year's Day in Jacksonville to start the 2011 calendar with a 52-14 victory over the University of Michigan to complete a nine-win season for the 2010 campaign. The victory marked MSU's first invitation and victory in a New Year's Day bowl game in the state of Florida since 1940.
"We're excited to return to the Gator Bowl for another New Year's Day experience," MSU coach Dan Mullen said in a school release. "This is a reward for our players after all their hard work this season and I know our coaches, players and fans will again have a great time in Jacksonville."
This New Year's Day matchup with the Wildcats (9-3) represents a third straight bowl game for the MSU program under Mullen and the Bulldogs will be going for a fourth straight bowl win dating back to the 2007 Liberty Bowl victory over the University of Central Florida.
"Jan. 1 + Florida locale = great bowl experience! Excited for Mississippi State to accept bid to @Gator_Bowl in Jacksonville," MSU Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin tweeted Sunday afternoon.
Northwestern has not won a bowl game since the 1949 Rose Bowl and has a 1-9 record in bowl games. The Wildcats will be attending its fifth straight bowl game and fourth on New Year's Day in that time period. The two schools have never met on the football field before this matchup on New Year's Day.
"Rick Catlett and his team at the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl do a wonderful job and we're excited to return to Jacksonville for the Gator Bowl," Stricklin said in the university release. "Bulldog fans have shown how enthusiastic and supportive they are of our team with record ticket sales each of the last two years, and I know they will take over Jacksonville for New Year's Eve and EverBank Field on New Year's Day."
Northwestern has the 14th best rushing offense in the county averaging 230.92 yards per game and averages 31.5 points per game this season. The Wildcats were led in passing yards by sophomore quarterback Trevor Siemian but junior quarterback Kain Colter is the starter under center. Colter is a dual-threat quarterback that accounted for 820 yards rushing and 796 yards passing this season. Junior tailback Venric Mark led Northwestern in rushing this season with 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Wildcats defense is 18th in the country in stopping run by allowing just 122.75 yards per game and is 10th in turnover margin at plus-13.
MSU is 3-7-1 all-time against Big Ten Conference opponents but haven't lost a bowl game since a 1999 Cotton Bowl defeat to the University of Texas.
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
1. W to host provocative exhibition of contemporary art ENTERTAINMENT
3. MSU to hold Freedom Summer Conference COMMUNITY