BELK BOWL STORYLINES
1. A pair of potent offenses and dual-threat quarterbacks square off when Mississippi State takes on North Carolina State in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, N.C. Both teams average more than 400 total yards and 33 points per game, and their talented quarterbacks are the catalysts. Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott has passed for 3,413 yards with 25 touchdowns and four interceptions while rushing for 541 yards and 10 more scores; N.C. State’s Jacoby Brissett has rolled up 2,448 passing yards with 19 touchdowns and four interceptions while adding 303 yards and five TDs on the ground.
2. N.C. State should enjoy a de facto home-field advantage. The Wolfpack are playing a short distance from home and have 15 players from the Charlotte area, including TE/FB Jaylen Samuels (315 rushing yards, 7 TDs; 64 receptions, 599 yards, 7 TDs). It will be the third time the Wolfpack have played in the bowl, where they defeated Louisville 31-24 in 2011 and beat South Florida 14-0 in the 2005 game, then known as the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
3. Both coaches have enjoyed success in bowl games. Dan Mullen has MIssissippi State in its sixth bowl in seven years and has posted a 3-2 record, though the Bulldogs have lost two of their last three bowls – including a 49-34 loss to Georgia Tech in last year’s Orange Bowl. N.C. State’s Dave Doeren is 2-0 in bowl games, including a 34-27 win over UCF in last year’s St. Petersburg Bowl – his first postseason trip with the Wolfpack.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Mississippi State -5.5
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA STATE (7-5, 3-5 ACC): The Wolfpack rolled through a weak non-conference schedule and took care of the bottom tier of the ACC, but they lack a signature win. Their impressive offensive totals are skewed somewhat by rolling up big numbers against weak competition, but they did put up 514 total yards against North Carolina and 389 versus top-ranked Clemson and are at their best when the ground game led by Matt Dayes (865 yards, 12 TDs) is working. The defense also was impressive against the weaker teams on the schedule but was exposed by Clemson (623 total yards), Florida State (479) and North Carolina (553).
ABOUT MISSISSIPPI STATE (8-4, 4-4 SEC): While Prescott is the engine, the Bulldogs are far from a one-man team, as Fred Ross (81 catches, 933 yards, 4 TDs) and De’Runnya Wilson (55 catches, 822 yards, 9 TDs) lead a talented receiving corps. Turnovers were a major problem late in the season, though, as Mississippi State had nine giveaways over its final four games, including at least two in each contest. The defense had its share of struggles against top competition, especially against the run, as five opponents rolled up more than 200 rushing yards against the Bulldogs with another finishing just six yards shy of that mark.
PREDICTION: Mississippi State 30, North Carolina State 27