Illinois vs Mississippi St
Illinois +3 +104 over Mississippi St

Posted at 10:45 AM EST odds are subject to change.

Pinnacle +3 +104 BET365 +3 +100 SportsInteraction +3½ -105 888Sport +3 +102

ReliaQuest Bowl -lRaymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL

Illinois +3 over Mississippi St

12:00 PM EST. Obviously the untimely death of Mississippi State HC Mike Leach on Dec. 12 will cast a shadow over this game, and the ascent of defensive coordinator Zach Arnett to the job all while the coaching staff was scattered preparing for the crucial signing period was fraught with distractions. Despite his quirks and idiosyncrasies, most of his players had a positive relationship with the eclectic coach. Arnett’s staff managed to pull off a top 25 national recruiting class in the interim, although between recruiting, generating a game plan for Illinois and counseling grieving players, focus for the coaching staff might be the biggest issue. Leach invented the “Air Raid” offense, and has brought it everywhere he’s been, and Mississippi State ranked 11th in the nation in passing offense with jr. QB Will Rogers completed 68% of his throws for 3702 yards with 34 TDs and only six picks.

This is a classic case of offense v defense, as Illinois brings the country’s best defense to the table (on paper), ranking first in points allowed, and importantly in this game the top pass efficiency defense in the country. That unit also ranked second in total defense and 8th in third down conversions on defense. There is a ”however” in this that the market and media are eating up. Two of the top defenders for the Illini, safety Sydney Brown and CB Devon Witherspoon have declared for the NFL draft. On top of that, the below average Illinois offense lost its most potent weapon when Sydney’s twin brother RB Chase Brown (ranked third in the nation) opted out of the bowl and declared for the NFL. Brown led all Power Five teams in rushing this season. That will put the pressure on Illinois QB Tommy DeVito to carry the attack. 

That’s the breakdown. What we know for sure is that the market prefers offense over defense. What we also know is that Illinois opened as a -1 point choice but the inefficient market believed the oddsmakers were drunk when they posted that line. Finally, the Mike Leach sudden passing has taken on a “Win one for the Gipper” feel in the Knute Rockne - All American movie.    

It was on his hospital bed that George Gipp is said to have delivered the "Win just one for the Gipper" line, to Knute Rockne, which goes like this: 

"I've got to go, Rock. It's alright. I'm not afraid. Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, ask them to go in there with all they've got and win just one for the Gipper. I don't know where I'll be then, Rock. But I'll know about it, and I'll be happy."

It’s touching, it really is but all of it has influenced the media and market to get behind Mississippi St and root for them in honour of Mike Leach. Of course that could happen but we’re in the value business and if you play the Bulldogs here, you would be doing so at a horrible number and we’ll once again reiterate that is not something we can recommend you get on board with.

Our Pick

Illinois +3 +104 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.08)