For a bowl game that's only in its ninth year of existence, the St. Petersburg Bowl has had quite a few names in its short life. It's been the magicJack Bowl, the Beef O'Brady's Bowl, and for one year it was the Bitcoin Bowl.

Now the game eschews the corporate sponsorship for the second year in a row, going back to its roots of being a bowl game played inside a baseball stadium in St. Petersburg, Florida. There are no frills, just football on strange-looking turf.

Viewing information

Date: Monday, Dec. 26
Time: 11 a.m. ET
Location: Tropicana Field -- St. Petersburg, Florida

Live streams: WatchESPN / WatchESPN apps


Miami (Ohio): The RedHawks are one of the best stories of the 2016 season. It's not just that this is Miami's first bowl game since 2011's GoDaddy Bowl -- and only the school's fourth bowl trip since 1986 -- it's how it got here. The RedHawks began the season with an 0-6 record and then managed to win its final six games of the season to get to 6-6 and bowl eligibility. How rare a feat is that? Well, Miami's the first school in college football history to ever do it, so it's pretty rare.

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs are one of those teams that benefits from there being so many bowl games. They didn't earn their bowl eligibility the old-fashioned way, as they finished the regular season with a 5-7 record. That's how an SEC ends up in a bowl game in which the conference has no ties to. Still, the Bulldogs aren't complaining about the trip, and they're looking to end the season on a high note as they head into the 2017 season.

Players to watch

Miami (Ohio): We mentioned that Miami lost its first six games of the season and then won its final six. Well, there was something that happened in those games that may not have just been a coincidence. You see, RedHawks quarterback Gus Ragland tore his ACL during the offseason, and he missed the first six games of the season. Ragland returned against Kent State, and Miami hasn't lost a game he's started this season. In six games, Ragland threw for 1,274 yards and 15 touchdowns, and even more importantly, he didn't toss a single interception. On the other side of the ball, look for defensive lineman J.T. Jones, who has 6.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss on the season.

Mississippi State: I don't know how many quarterbacks there are in the country that are more important to their respective team than Nick Fitzgerald is to Mississippi State. It really seems that as Fitzgerald goes, so go the Bulldogs. He threw for 2,287 yards, 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions this season, but he's also the team's leading rusher. Fitzgerald rushed for 1,243 yards and 14 touchdowns as well. Fitzgerald's rushing total was nearly twice as many as the team's second-leading rusher Aeris Williams (656 yards). Elsewhere, keep an eye on receiver Fred Ross (12 touchdowns) as well as defensive linemen Johnathan Calvin (seven sacks, 11.5 TFL) and A.J. Jefferson (four sacks, 10.5 TFL).


The sentimental side of me wants to take Miami (Ohio) just because it's been one of the better stories of the season, but sentiment can only take me so far. I know that Mississippi State has had a down season, and there is some concern about how motivated it will be in this game, but at the end of the day this is still an SEC team going up against a MAC opponent. Also, the combined records of the six teams Miami beat was 26-46, and it hasn't played a team like the Bulldogs yet this year. Pick: Mississippi State -12.5

St. Petersburg Bowl Expert Picks
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Dennis Dodd
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Jon Solomon
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Jerry Palm
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Chip Patterson
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Tom Fornelli
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Robby Kalland
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Ben Kercheval
Mississippi State -12.5