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MSU Notebook: Bowl games tend to better offensive production


Brett Hudson



JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A trend is starting to show itself in late December bowl games: points, and a lot of them. Mississippi State could be the next team thrown into a shootout. 


No. 24 MSU (8-4) will meet Louisville (8-4) in the TaxSlayer Bowl 11 a.m. Saturday (ESPN) at EverBank Field, doing so just two days after the Alamo Bowl featured 76 combined points and is far from alone in shootout status. MSU interim coach Greg Knox has an idea why bowl games have been producing more points. 


"A lot of time, a lot of time for preparation. You saw it early in the TCU game, a lot of trick plays early," Knox said in a press conference Friday morning. "A lot of preparation time gives you a lot of time scheme up some things and I think you're seeing that in the bowl games." 




Gray, Mixon will not play 




Knox said wide receivers Donald Gray (groin) and Keith Mixon (ankle) will not play in the TaxSlayer Bowl. Without them, MSU will likely lean heavily some combination of Gabe Myles, Jesse Jackson, Reggie Todd and Jamal Couch, plus the continued heavy use of tight ends. 






Some Cardinals skipping, not Jackson 




Louisville is entering the TaxSlayer Bowl down two defensive standouts, as cornerback Jaire Alexander and defensive lineman James Hearns have elected to skip the bowl to prepare for the NFL Draft. Even though quarterback Lamar Jackson is likely to join them in the upcoming draft, he chose to play in the TaxSlayer Bowl for one reason. 


"The reason I chose to play in it is because of my teammates. Throughout the year, they had injuries but came back into the game trying to help us out with victories in big games and they didn't have to, and I thought I owed it to them," Jackson said. 




Expecting the unexpected 




As much as the turbulence of the coaching change and interim coaching staff may have impacted MSU over recent weeks, it hasn't been the easiest of processes for Louisville, either. 


"We have to prepare on what we've seen from video. Scheme-wise, it's kind of up in the air because they are under two different playcallers," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. "Obviously we're going to have to make some adjustments during the game, and I think that's something you always have to do, get over the sideline and really understand what it is you're seeing. 


"I feel good about that because we have experience and we've been able to do that all season." 


The change also cost Louisville a shot at more familiarity than it normally gets in a bowl game: former MSU defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, now with Florida, was Louisville's defensive coordinator from 2014-2016. Petrino said he sees things on film that are familiar with him, but there is no way to know how much of that will carry over under interim defensive coordinator Ron English. 


Petrino said he does have experience against an English defense, having coached against him when English was the head coach at Eastern Michigan. 


Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson



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