By the numbers: Mississippi State

Mississippi State is a ground-heavy team, and that starts with quarterback Nick Fitzgerald.

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By the numbers: Mississippi State

Kansas State defenders try to contain Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald (7) in the first half on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kan. Mississippi State won, 31-10. (Bo Rader/Wichita Eagle/TNS)

Kansas State defenders try to contain Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald (7) in the first half on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kan. Mississippi State won, 31-10. (Bo Rader/Wichita Eagle/TNS)

Kansas State defenders try to contain Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald (7) in the first half on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kan. Mississippi State won, 31-10. (Bo Rader/Wichita Eagle/TNS)

Kansas State defenders try to contain Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald (7) in the first half on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kan. Mississippi State won, 31-10. (Bo Rader/Wichita Eagle/TNS)

Anna Kayser, Assistant Sports Editor

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Iowa will face No. 18 Mississippi State in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1, and the SEC-Big Ten matchup brings a challenge that the Hawkeyes haven’t had to face yet with quarterback Nate Stanley at the helm.

To name a few, Mississippi State has faced such teams as LSU, Florida, Kentucky, and Alabama. All of those games ended in wide-margin losses for the Bulldogs, but a strong schedule is something you can’t ignore.

All four of Mississippi State’s losses came against teams that ended the season in the top 15, and its only shutout loss came against No. 1 Alabama.

Rushing first downs: 142

The Bulldogs recorded 240 first downs on the season — 39 more than their opponents — and didn’t rely heavily on penalties or the passing game to do it.

The running game is strong, collecting 59 percent of the team’s first downs on the season and 2,717 yards.

In comparison, Iowa uses its passing game much more often to cross the first-down marker, going on the ground only 39 percent of the time. The Hawkeyes recorded almost 800 fewer rushing yards this season than the Bulldogs.

291 pass attempts

Starting quarterback Nick Fitzgerald has a 52.6 completion rate, throwing 249 of Mississippi State’s 291 pass attempts.

Fitzgerald has a variety of options in the backfield when the running game isn’t an option for the Bulldogs offense. Four receivers have more than 200 receiving yards on the season, and those four combined for 10 receiving touchdowns.

Wide receiver Stephen Guidry averages 21.6 yards per catch, reeling in the ball only 18 times for a total of 389 yards. Wide receiver Osirus Mitchell is up next with 24 catches for 385 yards.

Wide receiver Deddrick Thomas and tight end Justin Johnson have 240 and 233 yards on the season, respectively, with only 2 catches separating them.

Fitzgerald: 1,018 rushing yards

Fitzgerald is a mobile quarterback, relying heavily on himself to make plays on the ground.

He has 1,018 yards by himself on 201 carries, and no one in the running-back room is even close. Kylin Hill has 691 yards, followed up by Aeris Williams with 502.

Out of Mississippi State’s total rushing yards, Fitzgerald gained more than one-third of them. He has the option to find holes himself as well as handing it off to one of two capable running backs, who have numerous games with more than 100 yards under their belts.

Against Kansas State, Louisiana, Auburn, LSU, Louisiana Tech, and Ole Miss, Fitzgerald ran for more than 100 yards himself.

In the losses against Kentucky, Florida, and Alabama, he was held to under 50 yards and scored only 1 touchdown in the three games combined. A big part of Mississippi State’s success is when Fitzgerald can do what he needs to do with his feet.

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