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Five Questions: Mississippi State vs. North Carolina State in the Belk Bowl

The Mississippi State Bulldogs and North Carolina State Wolfpack battle later today for the Belk Bowl. Our friends at Backing the Pack helped us understand more about the NC State team.

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Mississippi State and North Carolina State may not be common opponents, but they are not total strangers either. The teams have met in multiple bowl games, and they have a home and home series scheduled against each other in the next decade.

Will Thompson (@thrillis4) from Backing the Pack, joined us to tell us a bit about Mississippi State's ACC foe. Big thanks to him for taking the time out of the Christmas Holidays to work with us.  If you are interested, I did the same for their site.

1) What expectations did North Carolina State have coming into the season, and where did the Wolfpack measure against those expectations?

Going into the season, I think a lot of NC State fans took a look at the schedule and thought 8 wins was definitely doable. Obviously the Pack fell a bit short of that, so it's somewhat disappointing. The losses to Virginia Tech and Louisville at home in particular still stick with me, as those were winnable games where NC State just fell flat.

Still, the Pack have a chance to redeem themselves with a bowl victory over a quality opponent in Mississippi State and generate some momentum heading into next season, so there's still a lot at stake here. As I mentioned to you in our podcast, NC State really benefited from being selected to the Belk Bowl, a game which is a bit of a fan favorite here in NC, so the fanbase is pretty excited about being able to easily travel to the game.

2) How important is Jacoby Brissett to this team? Who else is important offensively?

Brissett is the cog that keeps this offense running smoothly. He just doesn't make many mistakes at all, and he can run both read option offenses and more traditional down-the-field passing offenses very well. Earlier in the season, Brissett struggled with his deep ball accuracy, but has gotten better as the season progressed, and he's always a threat to scramble and pick up a first down.

Without Matt Dayes, who's been injured since the Clemson game, the run game has been a bit hamstrung, but look to see a lot of Jaylen Samuels in this game. He really is the Wolfpack's jack of all trades, and can line up just about anywhere on the field offensively. He's a total matchup nightmare, and when he gets a full head of steam in open space, he's very difficult to bring down.

3) On the defensive side of the ball, the Wolfpack have said they want to pressure Dak Prescott in this game. Who are the leading candidates to make Prescott have a long day in Charlotte?

Definitely Mike Rose and Darian Roseboro. Rose has 10.5 sacks on the season, and is averaging 1.25 tackles for loss per game, so he'd be one of the main defensive ends the Bulldogs will want to stop. Roseboro, a freshman, really came on strong late in the season and has made the Wolfpack pass rush that much more dynamic.

4) For North Carolina State to win this game, what do they have to accomplish in the contest?

The first thing is to prevent Dak Prescott from making big plays. That's definitely easier said than done, but this secondary has a tendency to get torched from time to time, so it's of the utmost importance for the Pack to put pressure on Prescott and try to force him into mistakes. NC State has a +10 turnover margin on the season, but that stat is a bit misleading as they went just about the entire month of October without forcing a turnover (which included that loss to Virginia Tech), so the Pack really needs to be opportunistic with forcing turnovers.

On the offensive side of the ball, I mentioned this to you but I really think NC State's best chance of winning is keeping Dak Prescott off the field. This was the same strategy that I outlined for beating UNC (which unfortunately didn't pan out because their offense is outrageously good), but if the Pack can have some long sustained drives that eat up a ton of clock and end in touchdowns, I like their chances to win the game.

5) How does this game end up playing out?

On the whole I think the game being played in Charlotte is a definite advantage for the Pack just based on the crowd turnout. Don't know if you've seen the weather report, but it sounds like it could be a rainy mess there at Bank of America Stadium, which I think also favors the Pack somewhat. Given those facts, I think NC State will build an early lead, but there's a reason Dak Prescott is so good, and ultimately I think he will lead the Bulldogs to a comeback victory, with Mississippi State winning 28-24.

Will also joined me on the Daily Grind on Bulldog Sports Radio.  You can listen to that below: