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Gator Bowl Prediction: Can Michigan's Defense Step Up?

Another clash of styles will take place in the Gator Bowl this afternoon, as the powerful rushing attack of Mississippi State will take on one of the nation's most exciting players, Denard Robinson, and the Michigan Wolverines.

Robinson should finally be healthy again. . .he's struggled with injuries this season, but the layoff from the end of the regular season to now should do wonders for him. (And he can ill afford to get hurt in this one, as backup quarterback Tate Forcier has been ruled academically ineligible for today's contest.) The Bulldogs will certainly have their hands full with Robinson's combination of speed and quickness, but they do have a very solid front seven that they hope can minimize the damage that Robinson does with his feet.

The problem for Michigan lies with their defense. . .which, to be charitable, hasn't been very good this season. Mississippi State has one of the most productive rushing attacks in the country with the tandem of Vick Ballard and LaDarius Perkins supplementing quarterback Chris Reif in the backfield. Both Ballard and Perkins have speed and power, and could give Michigan's undersized defense some serious fits. When Mississippi State is forced to throw, it remains to be seen if the Wolverines' inconsistent pass rushers can generate any pressure against a very solid Mississippi State offensive line.

If Michigan wants to have any chance in this one, they're going to have to get the sort of defensive performance that they've rarely seen this season. Look for Mississippi State to control the football and keep Robinson and company off of the field. Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen just got a fat contract extension from the Bulldogs, and he'll get a chance to celebrate this afternoon.

SB Nation Minnesota prediction: Mississippi State 34, Michigan 24

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.