North Carolina State Wolfpack (7-5 SU, 6-6 ATS) vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs (8-4 SU, 7-5 ATS)
Belk Bowl Preview
Date/Time: Wednesday December 30th, 3:30PM EST
Where: Bank of America Stadium Charlotte, N.C.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NCSU -6/MSU +6
Over/Under Total: 60
Bank of America Stadium will host the 2015 Belk Bowl when the North Carolina State Wolfpack meet the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Wednesday December 30th. The Belk Bowl will feature an intriguing SEC vs. ACC matchup that will showcase a lot of offensive talent. The Bulldogs are making their 6th straight bowl appearance under Dan Mullen and they are 4-2 SU in those bowl games. Meanwhile, the Wolfpack will be trying to match their 2014 total of 8 wins as they make their 2nd straight bowl appearance under Head Coach Dave Doeren.
The Wolfpack started the season with a 4-0 mark that was accessible due to an easy out of conference schedule. Once conference play started, North Carolina State was good at times but largely inconsistent. The Wolfpack defense on paper appears to be one of the better groups in the ACC. North Carolina State ranked 19th in the FBS giving up just 332 yards per game. However, this is also a defense that faltered down the stretch giving up 34.4 points per game over their final 5 contests including big numbers to Clemson, Florida State, and in the season finale against North Carolina.
The question North Carolina States defense will have to answer on December 30th is can they slow down Dak Prescott and a dangerous Bulldogs offense. Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott has been one of the most productive dual threat quarterbacks in the entire country this season. Prescott threw for 3,413 yards with 25 touchdowns and just 4 picks and he also ran for another 541 yards with 10 touchdowns on the ground. North Carolina State has not defended dual quarterbacks well this season. Simply go back and compare the stats of Deshaun Watson and Marquise Williams against the Wolfpack defense if you need proof.
Therefore I am interested to see if North Carolina States defense will continue to be their undeniable weakness. The Bulldogs running attack can be tiring on defenses. Not to mention, wide receivers Fred Ross and DeRunnya Wilson should have opportunities on the outside to make plays. If Mississippi State can capitalize on those mismatches, they could control this game barring a surprising defensive performance from the Wolfpack. However even if that happens, the Wolfpack have plenty of offensive weapons to strike back and make this game competitive.
Quarterback Jacoby Brissett has been solid completing 61% passing with 19 total touchdowns and 4 picks. Earlier this year, the Wolfpack rushing attack was looking great behind running back Matthew Dayes. However, Dayes went down with a season ending toe injury in the Clemson game which definitely made a big impact for this offense. After the loss of Dayes, was really the point in the season where the defensive problems became apparent. The reason is simple because North Carolina State could not sustain long drives and keep their offense all the field. The Wolfpack offense still scored points with some quick strikes and big plays. However, they were not able to sustain the long drives like they were early in the season.
I think that factor could play against them in the Belk Bowl. Mississippi State does a great job of finding ways to stay on the field. If that continues to happen, North Carolina States defense is going to wear down especially if the offense does not stay on the field for any considerable amount of time. More importantly, I think Mississippi State has a big advantage in the trenches among on both sides of the ball. I expect the Bulldogs to win the battle up front and control the tempo of this game. Ultimately, Mississippi State will pull away late as a result.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: North Carolina State is just 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games while the Bulldogs are 4-2 ATS in their last 6 games. As stated earlier, I expect the Bulldogs to control the game in the trenches as both of these trends continue. Take Mississippi State -6
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