North Carolina State Wolfpack vs. University of Central Florida Knights (-2, 49.5)
Nothing says college football more than virtual currency. This Friday, the North Carolina State Wolfpack (7-5, 3-5 ACC) will clash with the UCF Knights (9-3, 7-1 American) at the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl at Tropicana Field (8:00 p.m. Eastern).
The Wolfpack enter bowl season on a two-game winning streak, dominating Wake Forest and North Carolina in its last games of the regular season. North Carolina averages 29.8 points per game while allowing 27.0. The defense looked incredibly vulnerable during a four-game losing streak in late September/early October, allowing 56 points to the Seminoles, 41 to Clemson, and 30 to both Boston College and Louisville (neither of which are in the top-40 in scoring).
The defense was better thereafter, holding Syracuse, Wake Forest, and North Carolina to 17, 13, and seven points, respectively, in three of the final four games. Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren was happy with the way his team finished the year.
“We won three of our last four, and I really feel like our last two games against Wake and UNC, we were dominating in all three phases. We got better after the stretch [of losses]. We played pretty good against Florida State and lost, and we played pretty good against Louisville and lost. We’re a seven-win team that really had a chance to win nine games. Georgia Tech and Clemson we didn’t, but the others we did, and to finish the way we did, dominating the lines of scrimmage in both games, I was really proud of our players”, said the coach.
The UCF Knights went 9-3 on the year and lost just once in their last ten. The Knights couldn’t hang with a couple bigger programs early in the year, losing 26-24 to Penn State and 38-10 to Missouri, but they largely dominated their American Conference opponents.
The one exception was a dreadful 37-29 loss to Connecticut. The scoreline doesn’t look that bad until you realize that UConn won only two games this year, and the other was against Stony Brook which, to everyone’s amazement, has a football team.
The Knights rely on their stout defense to keep them in games. They surrendered just 17.9 points per game on the year, ninth-best in the nation. But it was the offense that led UCF to its best win of the year, a 32-30 victory at East Carolina in the last week of the regular season. The win earned UCF a share of the conference title (with fellow 7-1 teams Memphis and Cincinnati, neither of whom UCF faced this season).
NC State has a 14-12-1 all-time record in bowl games. The Wolfpack failed to reach a bowl game last year and lost in 2012 to Vanderbilt (38-24) in the Music City Bowl. Their last bowl win was back in 2011 when they downed Louisville (31-24) in the Belk Bowl.
The Knights are just 3-3 all time in bowls, but have won three straight, including a 59-42 shootout over No. 6 Baylor in last year’s Fiesta Bowl with Blake Bortles at the helm. In 2012, UCF beat Ball State, 38-17, in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl, which we only mention because you never pass up the chance to use the name Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl.
Central Florida are two-point favorites in the odds. These two teams last met in 2010 with NC State winning, 28-21.
(Photo credit: Breezy Baldwin (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)