Fun Facts: Mississippi State-Iowa, the John Grisham edition

The most-fun thing about 11 a.m. on New Year’s is the Outback Bowl. At noon? We’ll see.

Here are Fun Facts about the Outback Bowl:

1. The smallest crowd at Iowa’s five previous Outback Bowls was 51,119, and the average crowd was 57,814. Last year’s Michigan-South Carolina Outback Bowl attendance was 45,687.

2. All four of Mississippi State’s losses were to teams in the top 15 of the final College Football Playoff Rankings.

3. All eight of the Bulldogs’ wins were by double-digits.

4. Iowa has the Big Ten’s top kickoff-returner and punt-returner in Ihmir Smith Marsette and Kyle Groeneweg, respectively.

5. Mississippi State held seven opponents to their smallest point-total of the season. Iowa did so to five foes: Northern Illinois, Iowa State, Maryland, Indiana and Illinois.

6. Before the start of bowl season, Iowa was tied for the Division I lead in interceptions. But it will need four in this game to catch Utah State for the top spot since the Aggies picked off four North Texas passes in the New Mexico Bowl to finish with 22 this season. The Hawkeyes led the nation in interceptions last season with 21.

7. Mississippi State has one SEC football championship, in 1941. It has one West Division title, in 1998.

8. Iowa is 15-15-1 in bowls, 5-5 in bowls played on Jan. 1.


9. Mississippi State has won nine of its last 11 bowls, but its last one against a Big Ten team was a 34-20 loss to Northwestern in the 2013 Gator.

10. The SEC is 2-0 against the Big Ten in bowls this season, with Auburn and Florida combining to outscore Purdue and Michigan, 104-29.

11. An early omen favoring Iowa is this: Four-letter bowl teams are doing well in bowls. Ohio, Army and Duke all won their games. Utah plays Northwestern Monday in the Holiday Bowl.

12. Iowa beat Iowa State, which beat West Virginia, which beat Tennessee, which beat Kentucky, which beat Mississippi State.

13. Mississippi State beat Auburn, which beat Washington, which beat BYU, which beat Wisconsin, which beat Iowa.

14. Mississippi State linebackers coach Tem Lukabu was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 15. Mississippi State has never been in an Outback Bowl, but it was in the 2016 St. Petersburg Bowl, where it beat Miami (Ohio) 17-16 before a crowd of 15,717 at Tropicana Field.

16. The AFC and NFC Defensive Players of the Week for Week 14 this season were tackle Denico Aubry of Indianapolis and cornerback Darius Slay of Detroit. Both played at Mississippi State.

17. The Outback Bowl has had that name since 1995. Bowl names that have come and gone since then include the Bowl, the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl, the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, and the Fight Hunger Bowl.


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18. Starkville is the home of Mississippi State. Troy Outlaw recently retired after 26 years with the Starkville Police Department, He had a distinguished career.

19. Novelist John Grisham is a Mississippi State alum. He departed from writing legal thrillers to pen “Playing For Pizza,” a novel about an aging American pro football player who joined a team in Italy.

20. U.S. News and World Report ranked Mississippi 45th in financial stability, 46th in education, 48th in economy, 49th in opportunity and infrastructure, 50th in health care, and 49th as the best state overall for 2018. Iowa was ranked No. 1 overall.

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