Mississippi State to play Rice in Liberty Bowl

The Mississippi State Bulldogs will have a chance to celebrate their 50th anniversary of the Liberty Bowl by playing in the game for the fourth time overall.

Bowl officials chose the Bulldogs as their pick out of the Southeastern Conference to play Rice in the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 31 in Memphis. Mississippi State beat North Carolina State in 1963 when this bowl was played in Philadelphia, Pa.

Bowl officials passed over Vanderbilt (8-4) who played in Memphis two years ago. The Bulldogs helped turn out a record crowd of 63,816 in their last trip to this bowl in 2007 UCF.

“We know the Bulldog Nation is energized and ready to follow their team to Memphis after the Bulldog’s thrilling overtime win in the Egg Bowl,” bowl director Steve Ehrhart said. “We look forward to the Bulldogs and their fans ringing in the New Year on Beale Street.”

The Bulldogs (6-6) needed overtime to beat Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl to become bowl eligible for a fourth straight season and 17th bowl all-time. They lost to Northwestern 34-20 last year in the Gator Bowl, but coach Dan Mullen is 2-1 in bowls at Mississippi State with a chance to add to that now.

“Our seniors have done something no one here has ever done, and that’s play in four straight bowls,” Mullen said. “That’s special. This is a reward for all the hard work that started back in August, and I know our players, coaches and fans look forward to going to Memphis and playing another game.”

Rice (10-3) accepted its berth Saturday after beating Marshall 41-24 in the Conference USA championship game. This will be the first trip to the Liberty Bowl for the Owls, who also made consecutive bowls for the first time since 1960 and 1961. Rice won the Armed Forces Bowl last year.

Owls coach David Bailiff said they’re excited to play Mississippi State and a team that lost by three at Auburn.

“They really closed ranks and showed great character down the stretch, winning those last two games in overtime to become bowl eligible,” Bailiff said. “We know we are in for a tremendous challenge, but that’s what is exciting about the season we have had. I know our players are excited to play a team from the SEC and ready to get to work as soon as we can.”