Overall Mississippi State appears to have received a favorable bowl taking on the North Carolina State Wolfpack out of the ACC. NC State finished the regular season 7-5 overall and 3-5 in league play after failing to take down a team that finished with a winning record.
With that being said, the Wolfpack was competitive with some of the elite teams in their conference such as Clemson and North Carolina, at least for a portion of those games. NC State has an offense that could pose a threat to an MSU defense that was been subpar at best over the last three games.
It should be a fun one to watch, and I wouldn't give either team a clear advantage to win. Here are some positive and negative matchups for MSU in the contest.
Best matchup: Dak Prescott's legs vs. NC State front seven
The Wolfpack pieced together a solid defense overall during the season, but there was one common theme in all of their losses -- they couldn't stop the run. They surrendered over 200 rushing yards in four of their five losses, including a robust 374 in the last game against North Carolina. In its seven wins, NC State allowed around 74 yards per game. The blueprint is clear for MSU: run the ball successfully if you want to win the game. We all know the MSU running backs can't be trusted to do that consistently, so Dak Prescott should get carries often. I like this matchup for him if Mullen uses the passing game early to set up inside runs for his QB.
Good matchup: MSU defensive line vs. NC State O line
Chris Jones, A.J. Jefferson, and the rest of State's line should be licking their chops. NC State's line gave up 34 sacks, and that's an awful lot considering how little they throw the ball. The Dogs will take advantage of this if they can build a two-score lead and force their opponent into more passing situations. NC State's passing game is at its best when they're running the ball effectively. Shut that down, and then you can pin your ears back and go after the quarterback on obvious passing downs.
Bad matchup: Tight end Jaylen Samuels vs. MSU secondary
If I'm NC State's coach, I'm watching every minute of film from MSU's game against Arkansas and showing my team what Hunter Henry and Jeremy Sprinkle accomplished. Samuels is that same type of difference maker from his tight end spot. He leads NC State with right at 600 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Not only is Samuels the number one target for his team in the passing game, but he's added 315 yards and seven more scores on the ground. That's scary to think about defending. Manny Diaz has his work cut out for him.
Worst matchup: Defensive end Mike Rose vs. MSU tackles
The senior pass rusher tallied 15 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks this season. MSU has blocked well overall for Dak Prescott, but the Ole Miss and Alabama games can't be overlooked. The Rebels and Tide racked up a combined 17 sacks against the Bulldogs. It's an issue that must be fixed before the bowl game, or players like Rose will have a field day. Dak Prescott wants to go out a winner in his last game, but his o line needs to keep him upright most of the game for that to happen.