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Nickoe Whitley helps Mississippi State get bowl eligible


College football players, of course, aren't permitted to profit from a school's bowl earnings.

But if anyone on the Mississippi State roster deserves a piece of the check the Bulldogs will pull for a lower-tier bowl appearance next month, it's Nickoe Whitley.

The senior safety and 2014 NFL Draft prospect stripped Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace just before he crossed the goal line in overtime, clinching not only a 17-10 win for the Bulldogs but bowl eligibility for team that finished 6-6 with the victory. It was the second consecutive week Whitley forced a late fumble in an overtime game to spark a Bulldogs victory. He did it last week against Arkansas, forcing and recovering one in the MSU red zone to help seal a win over the Razorbacks. Mississippi State, now eligible for a fourth consecutive bowl, could be headed to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis or the Music City Bowl in Nashville.

Whitley also came up with one of three interceptions of Wallace on the night, and five tackles to go with his forced fumble. At 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, Whitley has NFL potential as a free safety and special teams player. After Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Whitley is considered among the SEC's next tier of safety prospects, along with LSU's Craig Loston and Vanderbilt's Kenny Ladler.

Whitley has been MSU's top playmaker in the secondary this season, making a team-high five interceptions to go with 55 stops. He enters weekend action tied for second in the league in interceptions behind Cody Prewitt of Ole Miss with six.

*Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter **@ChaseGoodbread*.

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