Publisher’s Note: From Saturday morning, NC State will be without Linebackers Payton Wilson and Drake Thomas due to injuries, while Safety Tanner Ingle will miss the game after receiving too many target penalties. Defensive tackle Alim McNeill has also signed off and will not enter the field.
|NC State odds||+2.5||BET NOW|
|Kentucky odds||-2.5||BET NOW|
|Money line||+107 / -130||BET NOW|
|Over under||49.5||BET NOW|
|Time | TV||Noon AND||ESPN|
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The state of North Carolina enters the Gator Bowl after an 8-3 season and finishes third in the ACC Atlantic. The Wolfpack missed the 2019 bowl season and haven’t won a bowl game since the 2017 Sun Bowl.
In a year when all teams were qualified for bowl games, Kentucky finished with a 4–6 record and finished fourth in the SEC East. While Kentucky has won its last two bowl games, this doesn’t seem like one of Mark Stoops’ better teams.
That line is eye-opening, and early actions have revealed Kentucky as a very public team. I’m going to take the opposite side of this matchup.
NC State Wolfpack
For the most part, NC State’s season has been filled with victories over bad teams. They only have two wins against teams that finished with a winning record, averaging 31.1 points per game and allowing 29.7 points.
The offense has an overall success rate of 41.1%, but was strong in the finishing drives with an average of 3.9 points per opportunity. The Wolfpack was a relatively even offensive that ran the ball 53.2% of the time.
Bailey Hockman was the primary starting quarterback when Devin Leary went down with an injury. Hockman completed 63.7% of his passes averaging 8.1 yards per attempt. However, turnovers are the main concern as he threw eight interceptions.
As for the hasty attack, it has mostly been bad for NC State. It averages just 3.5 yards per carry, with a success rate of 40.9%. The offensive line generates 2.6 line yards per attempt, which enables a stuff rate of 21.5%.
Defense was the strength of this team. NC State has allowed a 40.5% success rate plus its win in the trenches by only allowing 2.7 yards per try and forcing a 24.5% stuff rate. The only real concern with this defense is their inability to get teams off the field once they get into a goal position. The wolf pack allows 3.87 points per opportunity.
None of Kentucky’s four wins that season came against teams that finished with winning records. The Wildcats scored only 21.7 points per game and reached 26.4 points and ranked 107th and 46th respectively. And to further hinder its offensive, Kentucky will forego offensive coordinator Eddie Gran, who was fired before this game.
Kentucky is focused on the game in progress and a slow offense that tries to keep the games down. The Wildcats run the ball 63.8% of the games which helped give them an average of 30.2 seconds per game. That ranks 10th among the slowest in the nation.
The rushing attack performed well behind an offensive line that generated 3.1 yards per attempt, allowing for a 14.7% stuff rate. Running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. leads the team with 701 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 6.9 yards per attempt.
Quarterback Terry Wilson also contributed to the running game, racking up 410 rushing yards and five touchdowns. However, his passport numbers are raising some red flags. While he completes 62.7% of his passes, Wilson only averages 6.2 yards per attempt and has a 7: 4 ratio between touchdown and interception.
Wilson, who helped Kentucky hit its 48.7% success rate in a rush, was also the main culprit for the misdemeanor’s 34.1% success rate, which ranks 18th in the country.
Defensively, this isn’t a standard Kentucky line-up that has been at the heart of the youngest teams. The wildcats are below average in both the pass and the run and allow a success rate of 45.4% when passing and 45.5% when rushing. They allow 3.09 yards per attempt and have tamped 18.4% of the attempts.
Betting analysis & tip
According to the Action Network’s NCAAF PRO report, big money bets were placed on NC State and 74% of the money was placed on the Wolfpack, even though Kentucky made 66% of the betting slips. And similar to my attitude, our PRO projections have NC State as easy favorites.
Historically, outsiders have more often won directly than lost and covered. So while I’m taking NC State +2.5, I’ll also try to do a moneyline game with the best number I can find.
Pick: NC State +2.5 (play down to pick)
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