Just like you guys and gals, I’ve been spending quality time with family and friends, so here is my short and sweet game preview. Enjoy and share…
Depending on who you ask, the 2015 season was either a pleasant surprise for Mississippi State, or, just an average year. Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs were picked to win no more than 6 games, and forecasted to finish dead last in the SEC West- by the Conference’s media. Thank goodness neither prediction came to fruition. The Dawgs find themselves here in the middle of the 2015-2016 Bowl Season, and awaiting a date with the NC State Wolfpack, which offers MSU a chance to rack up their 9th win. If you’re like me, it’s hard to look passed the poor performances against A&M, Bama, and Ole Miss, but in reality, this team exceeded expectations and spent about half the season ranked. So, how much can we really complain? With that said though, we could see the old bowl game cliche of “one team looked excited to be there, and the other team could’ve cared less”– on full display, if the Bulldogs approach this game with an ungrateful attitude. Lord knows there’s a big difference between the Sugar Bowl and the Belk Bowl, though the deciding factor came down to a single game.
One team that will be excited to be playing in Charlotte today, is North Carolina State. Less than a 3 hour ride from the Wolfpack’s campus in Raleigh, there’s no doubt that Pack fans will be in full force, especially with the chance to knock off an SEC West opponent. NC State scrapped and clawed their way to a 7-5 record, losing 3 of their 5 games to teams that are all ranked within the top 11, of the College Football Playoff poll. Though there are no moral victories in football, it’s worth noting that NC State played #1 Clemson extremely well, before falling 56-41 to the playoff bound Tigers. Unfortunately, Louisville and Virginia Tech provided the Wolfpack with their other 2 losses, which muddy up their resume’a bit. On the flip side, all of MSU’s losses with the exception of one (A&M) came against teams currently in the top 20 of the CFP polls, including #2 Alabama.
As NC State seeks their second straight 8-win season under Dave Doeren, and as State looks to end a roller coaster year on a positive note, this game is all about the Quarterbacks who lead these teams. The Wolfpack is led by former Florida transfer, Jacoby Brissett, while Mississippi State is led by arguably the best player to ever wear Maroon and White, in Dak Prescott. During his career in Raleigh, Brissett has played a pivotal role in making the Pack competitive once again, as the program rebuilds and gains traction under the leadership of Doeren. For Prescott, he’s seen his role evolve since he stepped on campus in Starkville, from a back up rushing QB, to a Heisman contender that led MSU to 5 straight weeks atop the CFP poll, in 2014. For Dave Doeren and MSU’s Dan Mullen, you would have to think that neither coach will pull any punches- when it comes to dialing up big plays for their respective QB’s today, hoping to send their signal-caller out a winner.
Prescott: 3,414 yds passing, 25 TDs and 4 INTs, 541 rushing and 10 TDs.
Brissett: 2,448 yds passing, 19 TDs and 4 INTs, 303 yds rushing and 5 TDs.
Stat Matchup (Leader is listed first)
Total Offense: MSU- 451 ypg; NCS- 411 ypg
Passing Offense: MSU- 311 ypg; NCS- 210 ypg
Rushing Offense: NCS- 210 ypg; MSU- 140 ypg
Scoring Offense: NCS- 33 ppg; MSU- 33 ppg
Total Defense: NCS- 332 ypg; MSU- 388 ypg
Passing Defense: NCS- 188 ypg; MSU- 216 ypg
Rushing Defense: NCS- 144 ypg; MSU- 171 ypg
Scoring Defense: MSU- 22 ppg; NCS- 23 ppg
As you can see by the stats, Dak Prescott and the Bulldog Offense have their work cut out for them today. But, if I could make you feel a little bit better about how dominant the Wolfpack’s #19 ranked Defense looks on paper, check out this stat…
MSU’s Offensive Efficiency- 15th nationally.
NC State’s Defensive Efficiency- 72nd nationally.
Also, for those MSU fans who are worried about facing a duel-threat QB like Brissett, (and for the record I still believe you should), because the Dawg D has been down right porous at times, the stats say State isn’t that bad in reality…
NC State’s Offensive Efficiency- 20th nationally.
MSU’s Defensive Efficiency- 36th nationally.
*(For those wondering, State is ranked 33rd in overall Team Efficiency, while NC State is ranked 68th)
My Thoughts on the Matchup: As I mentioned in my previous article, MSU’s O-Line isn’t built for the run game, and against a team that is so solid in stopping that aspect of the game, I don’t see Mullen trying to impose his will with our younger, smaller backfield, and not-s0-athletic OL. Instead, I think Mullen will pull his Arkansas game plan out of his back pocket, which was pretty much call a pass play 70% of the time, keep the ball in the hands of your best player, and run the ball occasionally to keep NC State honest. Look for Holloway and the other Backs to run routes to the flat and middle of the field, to get around NC State’s aggressive DL, one in which features 3 players that have at least 10 tackles per loss (no, that’s not a typo). DE #90, Mike Rose, is a freak if you haven’t seen him play yet, and State will have to contain him for Prescott to have success in the passing and read-option game. Mullen must dial up plays that get the ball out of Prescott’s hands quickly, unless OL Coach John Hevesy has somehow snuck Beckwith, Day, and Clausell into his starting 5. On Defense, I firmly believe that Manny Diaz has to do what he always intends to do when game-planning, which is to make the opponent one-dimensional. In the case of today’s game, it has to be to stop that Wolfpack running game, which averages 200+ yards a game, and is easier said than done. The Pack has 5 RBs with over 200 yards rushing on the year, lead by Jr. Matthew Dayes (865 yds, 12 TDs). NC State will be a highly motivated team, happy to be in bowl that’s less than 3 hours from home, with a chance to knock off an SEC team.
Prediction: MSU 34 NC State 31 Too. Close. For. Comfort.