2015 Belk Bowl Preview

North Carolina State Wolfpack (7-5) vs Mississippi State Bulldogs (8-4)

Wednesday December 30, 3:30 ET, ESPN

Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC

Line: Miss State -5.5

Over/Under: 60.5

*Statistical rankings are from CFBStats

2015 Belk Bowl Wins Preview


Last season the Belk Bowl got an all bowl performance out of Georgia running back Nick Chubb. This season they get a great matchup of two quarterbacks who have carried their team for seasons. This bowl game is growing and growing in its appeal, and each season it will probably get a high profile draw, no matter who the teams are, based solely on its relationship with the SEC.

As mentioned above, in the inaugural version of the Belk’s ACC vs SEC matchup, Nick Chubb took it to Louisville on the ground for 269 yards and UGA beat up on the overmatched Cardinals. I think this year’s game could go a similar route, but in front of a bigger crowd in an afternoon game. And instead of a ground attack, Mississippi State’s quarterback Dak Prescott is going to look to throw on the Wolfpack. Neither team has played in many nail biters this season. Both teams have won a few close games, but when these teams win, it’s usually by a couple of touchdowns. The early series for these two offenses will be crucial, especially for NC State, because the Wolfpack have gotten themselves into holes this season that they could not overcome.

Matchup to Watch

Quarterback Dak Prescott vs Jacoby Brissett

They’re not competing one on one, but as a positional match up, this is a beauty. These two could see playing time in the NFL some day, and we get a preview of two of the better senior duel threat quarterbacks in the college game. Dak Prescott has meant the world to Starkville, while Jacoby Brissett transferred in and got NC State out of a funk in his first year under center.

I think the level of competition that the Bulldogs played this year will give them the edge. They went 8-4 overall and 4-4 in what many regard as the best division in college football. The entire SEC West is going bowling, and Mississippi State shook off their last place prediction and now they get a shot to send Dak Prescott out on a high note. The Starkville faithful will show up in support of the whole team, but especially Prescott.

Speaking of competition, NC State has no wins versus bowl eligible teams, while Mississippi State has four. NC State has one advantage in this matchup in that it’s being played in their home state. The Wolfpack will travel 167 miles to Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, while the Bulldogs will travel 532.

Given the prestige that comes with not only hosting an SEC school, but also one from the powerful SEC West, the Belk Bowl has a good matchup of proximity as well. NC State should fill the seats due to ease of travel, while Mississippi State is one of the closest schools from the SEC West that could come to the bowl. All seven SEC West teams were bowl eligible, but the Bulldogs and their 8-4 record were an easy selection for this game. Dak Prescott vs Jacoby Brissett can sell the game, along with a potential for points. These teams rank in the top half of the nation in points scored, with NC State ranked 42nd, and Mississippi State ranked 47th.

X Factor

Fast start

When NC State has fallen behind and struggled in the first half this season, their games have gotten ugly. Those low scoring games against Louisville and Virginia Tech marked the low point for the Wolfpack offense. If they allow the Bulldogs to jump out to an early lead, it will get dire in a hurry. UNC made quick work of NC State in the first quarter in their regular season finale, and NC State couldn’t recover. NC State ranks 22nd in the nation in passing defense, and the Wolfpack will have to somehow be even better against Prescott. Dak threw the ball 435 times this season, and led the SEC in four categories.

There Will Be Cowbell

The sheer number of NC State fans will have to put their collective vocal chords together to combat the surely smaller crowd of Mississippi State Bulldogs. The Mississippi State fans will bring the bell, so the Pack faithful had better show up in droves to drown out the clanging. If NC State gets out to a trademark slow start in the first quarter against a hot offense, then those cowbells will be incessant, and it will be a long day for the folks in red and white. If these teams’ fans fill three quarters of Bank of America Stadium, then there’s going to be over 50,000 fans in attendance that afternoon, so NC State will have to utilize its sheer number to compete with the decibel level that the Bulldogs fans will surely reach. Call it SEC pride, call it more interest, call it what you want, but the Mississippi State fans will be heard loud and clear.

Series History

These teams have met five times since 1930, with the Wolfpack holding the series lead 3-2. Their last two meetings have been in bowl games, with the Bulldogs winning the 1963 Liberty Bowl, and the Wolfpack winning the 1995 Peach Bowl. Having been to this bowl last year in the nighttime, I can attest to the good fortune of a 3:30 kick this year. What’s surely to be a beautiful day for football should be a good opportunity to showcase these teams, and send the senior quarterbacks out in style.


NC State will look to control the clock and run the ball with Jaylen Samuels and Reggie Gallaspy II filling in for the backs that they’ve lost to injury or dismissal. I think NC State’s schedule hasn’t prepared them for the competition that the Bulldogs will bring. Their seven wins are deceiving and a long stretch of mediocrity will catch up to the Wolfpack.

NC State will start slow, and fail to contain Prescott. Dak will run and throw all over the field, but Jacoby Brissett will keep the pace. The motivation behind playing an SEC West opponent may fuel the Wolfpack, and will them to more points than they should score. But their lack of a lead back will be a handicap, and the talent of Mississippi State is going to prove difficult to defend. The Wolfpack will have to play up for this game, be thrilled to be there, and take it to a team with arguably more talent. If NC State does not do this, then this game could be lopsided in a hurry. In the end, NC State will mount a comeback, but it will be too little, too late.

Final score prediction: Mississippi State 36 – NC State 31

Belk Bowl fun fact

Carrie Underwood is performing at the Belk Bowl Fan Fest two hours prior to kick off. Last year Miranda Lambert did the same, and my family and I were way too late to attend. We held our hands to our ears Grinch-style and enjoyed the tunes. Kudos to the Belk Bowl for bringing in stars to up the appeal.

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