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ReliaQuest Bowl: Mississippi State Bulldogs vs Illinois Fighting Illini Betting Analysis and Prediction

Bowl season is the best time of the year in college football, but the ReliaQuest Bowl between the Mississippi State Bulldogs and Illinois Fighting Illini is a mix of emotions. The Bulldogs will play their first game since the legendary Mike Leach passed away. Follow along for the ReliaQuest Bowl odds and our Mississippi State vs Illinois predictions.

This looks to be one of the most evenly-matched bowl games this season, as both teams come into the game with an 8-4 record. Mississippi State currently sits higher in the NCAAF rankings at No. 22. 

Last Game Records

The Illinois Fighting Illini do not have the illustrious history in football as other top programs do, but they are looking to continue their strong season. The Illini turned heads all year long, and in the new calendar year, they look to continue to do the same. 

On Monday, the Illini will compete in just their 20th bowl game. Illinois has not won a postseason game since 2011 in the Fight Hunger Bowl against UCLA. They are competing in their first bowl game since 2019. After starting 3-0 bowls, their postseason record sits at 8-11 all-time. 

Just like Illinois, the Mississippi State Bulldogs did not go bowling last year. They last made a bowl game in 2021 and last won in the Armed Forces Bowl in 2020 against Tulsa. The Bulldogs are 14-11 all-time in their 25 outings. This season, you can call them the “Bowldogs.”

The Mississippi State vs Illinois Prediction is very intriguing, as the two schools have not battled since 1980. They have only faced twice and have each split one game apiece. Mississippi won their last meeting 28-21. 

Mississippi State vs Illinois Betting Analysis

Play for Coach Leach

No matter the outcome of the ReliaQuest Bowl, it is much more than football for the Mississippi State Bulldogs. They pondered not playing this game at all, but they knew their late coach Mike Leach would have wanted his boys to go out there and compete. Win or lose, this game means a lot for all of the Bulldogs. 

A lot of the popular college football picks around the country love the Bulldogs as they play at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida. Their NCAAF schedule in the SEC West is brutal, but it prepares them for games like these. Their losses come against Alabama, Georgia, LSU, and Kentucky. 

Will Rogers is one of the best quarterbacks in all of college football. All eyes will be on the gunslinger behind center, who has thrown 11 touchdowns in his last four games. Mississippi State is higher in the NCAAF standings, and a chunk of the credit goes to the junior quarterback. 

What are the Illini Doing Here?

Most people in the world of college football expected the Illinois Fighting Illini to be sitting close to the bottom of the Big Ten West. Now, they are playing in the ReliaQuest Bowl. It may not be the Outback Bowl anymore, but some good football is on its way. 

Defense has been the story of Illinois’ season. This Fighting Illini defense has been the best in the country. After being projected to miss out on a bowl game, the Illini defense allowed the yards per game at 263.8. The next closest is Georgia, with over 20 more yards allowed per game. This defense can beat any team in the country; it just takes the offense to step up. 


This may not be Georgia vs TCU, but the Mississippi State Bulldogs vs Illinois Fighting Illini will be one of the best games in the new year. Our Mississippi State vs Illinois Prediction will be impacted greatly not by who is on the field but by who is off it.

Mississippi State has the advantage in the ReliaQuest Bowl based on transfers and college football injuries. They are healthy and returning most of their guys. A key piece not playing, however, is Rara Thomas at wide receiver. Thomas is currently in the transfer portal. 

Illinois takes the biggest hit in this one. One of their best offensive players in franchise history will not be playing. Chase Brown has entered his name in the NFL Draft and will not be between the sidelines Monday. Brown had a breakout year and was the second-leading rusher in the entire country. This entire offense ran through Brown. 

Reggie Love III will have to step up in his absence. He has not had a large workload this season but scored a touchdown in the blowout against Northwestern in the season finale. The underclassman averaged 7.7 yards per carry. 

Mississippi State Bulldogs vs Illinois Fighting Illini Betting Preview

Mississippi State Bulldogs

The Mississippi State Bulldogs are favored by a field goal in the ReliaQuest Bowl. Mississippi State is favored -150 on the moneyline and -3 (-115) against the spread. The Bulldogs’ team total is 24. The overall total for the game is an even 46. 

Illinois Fighting Illini

After being underdogs the majority of 2022, the Illinois Fighting Illini enter 2023 the same way. Las Vegas lines have the Illini +130 on the moneyline and +3 (-105) against the spread. Illinois’ team total is set at 21.5. Thanks to their incredible defense, the total is set at 46. This is the lowest posted total for the remainder of the college football season.

Mississippi State Bulldogs vs Illinois Fighting Illini Betting Prediction

Watching a shootout in college football is fun, but something about a gritty, low-scoring game is just electric. The ReliaQuest Bowl with the Mississippi State Bulldogs and Illinois Fighting Illini should be just that. 

Both teams have to make a long trip, but the Illini have over 1,000 miles separating Champaign-Urbana from Tampa Bay, where the big game will take place. 

The Fighting Illini may be without their best player, but their defense is remarkable. They held the Michigan Wolverines to just 19 points. Finally, this defense will have the nation’s attention, and they are ready to show the world what they can do. There is a reason the total for this game is just 46. 

Let’s forget about the spread and over/under for this game. This game could go either way, and I think the moneyline is the way to go. We are taking Illinois +130. This game will be decided by the first team to get to 17, and I do not think the Bulldogs will be able to do that. 

Pick: Illinois Fighting Illini +130 

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