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2011 Gator Bowl: Michigan To Play Mississippi State On New Year's Day In Jacksonville

An official announcement has not been made yet, but the Michigan Daily got word from Gator Bowl president Rick Catlett that Michigan will play Mississippi State in the New Year's Day bowl game in Jacksonville. The Florida Times-Union was the first to report on the Gator Bowl opting for a Michigan-Mississippi State matchup.

Tennessee and Florida had both been mentioned quite a bit as possible opponents for the Wolverines if they were to play in this game. Florida is headed to the Outback Bowl, though, and Tennessee was passed by for an 8-4 Mississippi State team. The Volunteers are only 6-6, so this seems to be one of the rare instances where a bowl game picked the more deserving team over the more appealing matchup.

On the flip side, the decision to pick Michigan was all about the ratings. Iowa is headed to the Insight Bowl despite beating both the Wolverines and Penn State. The Outback Bowl picked PSU to play Florida, and the Gator Bowl opted for the Wolverines over the Hawkeyes. As discussed in the bowl projections earlier today, the immense amount of storylines surrounding Michigan make them more appealing than Iowa for TV ratings, so it's not too surprising that Denard Robinson and his fellow native Floridians will be returning home for Michigan's bowl game.

Michigan has played in the Gator Bowl twice in its history. The first trip to Jacksonville for this game came on Dec. 28, 1979. Michigan lost to North Carolina, 17-15. The more recent trip to the Gator Bowl for Michigan came on New Year's Day in 1991. The Wolverines easily beat Mississippi, 35-3.

Michigan and Mississippi State have never played each other before, so the New Year's Day matchup in Jacksonville between the two teams will be their first ever meeting.

UPDATE: As Mike Rothstein pointed out on Twitter, Rich Rodriguez has a 1-2 record in the Gator Bowl. With West Virginia, he beat Georgia Tech in 2007 and lost to Maryland in 2004 and Florida State in 2005.