North Carolina State Wolfpack (7-5 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. UCF Knights (9-3 SU, 8-4 ATS)
Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl Preview
Date and Time: Friday December 26th, 2014. 8:00PM EST
Where: Tropicana Field St. Petersburg, F.L.
by Jay, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NCSU +2/UCF -2
Over/Under Total: 49.5
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The UCF Knights will get to stay close to home this bowl season when they meet the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida on December 26th. The Knights are coming off a solid 9-3 SU season in which they took a share of the American Athletic Conference Title. The Knights will now set their aim at the newly renamed Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl formerly known as the Beef O Bradys Bowl. The Knights will actually be making their 3rd appearance in the St. Petersburg Bowls 7 year history and will have a chance to reach 10 wins under Coach George OLeary for the 4th time in the last 6 seasons.
The Knights are currently listed as 2 point favorites over the Wolfpack after closing out the regular season by winning 9 of their last 10 games. Defense has been the big catalyst to the Knights success under Coach OLeary over the past several years. UCFs defense gave up just 17.2 points per game on the year which ranked 9th in the FBS. More importantly the defense really progressed throughout the 2nd half of the season as has a lot of momentum heading into their matchup against North Carolina State. The Wolfpack on the hand has struggled on the offensive side of the ball this season and will have to find a way to overcome the Knights tough defense.
The Wolfpack offense ranks 96th in passing averaging 197 yards per game, 38th in passing averaging 206 yards per game, and 69th in scoring averaging 29.8 points per game. While those numbers are not awful, they are not exactly above par either. If you add in the fact that North Carolina States defensive play has also been mediocre and it may be easy to understand why the team was just 3-5 in ACC play this season. However, Coach Dave Doerens team is still making progress. After winning just 3 games in 2013, the Wolfpack have made a lot of improvement and have a chance to win their first bowl game since 2011.
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In order for that to happen, the Wolfpack are going to need a strong effort on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett and tailback Shadrach Thornton will be the key guys to making that happen. Brissett has thrown for 2,344 yards with 22 touchdowns and 5 picks this season while completing just under 60% of his passes. Thornton has tallied 811 yards and 9 touchdowns on the season while Brissett has added 498 yards on the ground with 3 more touchdowns. The Wolfpack rely heavily on their running game which will present challenges for UCFs defense. However Brissett will also need to make a few big plays with his arm for the Wolfpack to pull out the victory.
The Knights offense will also need to find a way to make a few plays in order to win the football game as well. As strong as the UFC defense has been, the offense has been fairly disappointing averaging just 28.3 points per game (72nd in FBS). Knights quarterback Justin Holman has struggled with turnover woes
and finished the season with 20 touchdowns along with 13 interceptions. Meanwhile the UCF running attack has been among the worse in the country averaging just 132 yards per game as a team. Therefore the offense still relies heavily on Holman despite the consistent turnover issues. Considering the fact both teams are evenly matched, turnovers could be the telling story of the St. Petersburg Bowl.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Both teams have done pretty well recently against the books. UCF is 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games with NCSU is 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games. However, I think the Knights are best suited for this matchup as they will make enough plays offensively and let their defense shine in route to victory. Take UCF -2!