The WNUR Sports staffers provide their picks for Tuesday’s Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl between the Northwestern University Wildcats and the Mississippi State University Bulldogs.Zach Kisfalusi (@zKisfalusi): Northwestern 38 – Mississippi State 17. Northwestern and Mississippi State will both enter the Gator Bowl trying to right some wrongs. The Bulldogs are trying to prove they belong in the upper half of the SEC, while the Wildcats seek to break their never-ending bowl win less streak. The player to watch is Venric Mark who looks to set the wheels in motion on his potential Heisman campaign in the fall of 2013.
Jim Sannes (@JimSannes): I’ll be on the broadcast for Tuesday’s game (10:00 pre-game, 11:00 kickoff right here at WNURSports.com and WNUR 89.3 FM), so I’ll abstain from making a pick. Mississippi State allows an average of 166 rushing yards per game. With the duo of Kain Colter and Venric Mark at full strength, the Bulldogs are going to have their hands full. The key to this game, though, is Northwestern’s secondary against the Mississippi State receivers. Wideouts Chad Bumphis and Chris Smith along with tight end Marcus Green could provide some headaches for ‘Cats fans. This means Nick VanHoose, Ibraheim Campbell and Jared Carpenter will need to excel in order for Northwestern to record its 10th win of the season. Player to Watch: Nick VanHoose.
Seth Bernstein (@SethBernstein67): 35-24 Northwestern. It’s long past time for the ‘Cats to slay that monkey off of their back. With a favorable bowl matchup for the first time in recent memory, it’s finally going to happen. Player to Watch: Venric Mark. It sounds like he’s completely healthy and you know he wants to shine on the national stage.
Danny Moran (@DannyJMoran): Northwestern 34, Mississippi State 30. The Wildcats should be able to handle the Bulldogs for their first bowl win in 64 years with a healthy dose of the option from Kain Colter and Venric Mark. If they can hold on to the ball and create a couple turnovers against the SEC’s turnover margin leader, the game shouldn’t be too heart-stopping. Player to Watch: Tyler Scott.
Nick Scoliard: Northwestern 31- 27 This will be the year the Wildcats get it done. While the Bulldogs have a great pass defense, led by Thorpe Award winner Jonathan Banks and All-SEC selection Darius Slay, their rushing defense is ranked just 69th nationally, giving up 166 yards per game. If Mark and Colter can capitalize, move the chains on the ground, and control the clock, then the Wildcats will win. But be prepared for when it gets close in the fourth quarter, as the Cardiac ‘Cats will be sure to live up to their name. Player to Watch: Venric Mark.
John Castellanos (@JJCast15): Northwestern: 24, Mississippi St: 21. The elusive bowl victory finally finds Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats, but it is going to be a close one the entire way. Northwestern’s defense will bend, but not break, resulting in some red-zone stops. In the end, Venric Mark will start off 2013 with a huge game, finding the end zone twice, while a Jeff Budzien kick seals the victory for the ‘Cats. Time to rip that monkey to shreds! Player to Watch: Venric Mark.
Kevin Harris (@kevharris711): 31-21 Northwestern. After 63 elusive years the Wildcats will finally get another bowl win due to a strong performance on the ground from Venric Mark and Kain Colter. With Mississippi St. losing four out of their last five regular season games and the #20 ranked ‘Cats going 4-2 this season against bowl eligible teams, NU should prevail (giving Coach Fitz his 50th career victory) as long as they can avoid turning the ball over and can close out the game in the 4th quarter. Player to Watch: David Nwabuisi playing in his last game as a Wildcat comes up with a big interception in the second half.