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NC State vs. Kentucky Gator Bowl Odds & Pick: Bet Underdog Wolfpack to Cover Against Wildcats

NC State vs. Kentucky Gator Bowl Odds & Pick: Bet Underdog Wolfpack to Cover Against Wildcats article feature image

Jaylynn Nash/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: North Carolina State Wolfpack defensive end Xavier Lyas (97).

  • NC State will take on Kentucky in the first bowl game of the day — a 12 p.m. kickoff of the Gator Bowl.
  • The Wolfpack have been solid this season despite a quarterback controversy to start the season, while the Wildcats have managed to get by without Lynn Bowden.
  • Matt Wispe breaks down the game below and shares a betting pick based on his analysis.

Editor’s Note: As of 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 targeting penalties. Defensive tackle Alim McNeill has also opted out and will not take the field.

NC State vs. Kentucky Odds

NC State Odds
Kentucky Odds
 +107 / -130
Time | TV
Noon ET
Odds updated Saturday morning and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today

North Carolina State enters the Gator Bowl following an 8-3 season and finishing third in the ACC Atlantic. The Wolfpack missed out on bowl season in 2019 and hasn’t won a bowl game since the 2017 Sun Bowl.

In a year when all teams were made eligible for bowl games, Kentucky finished with a 4-6 record and wound up fourth in the SEC East. While Kentucky has won its last two bowl games, this doesn’t appear to be one of Mark Stoops’ better teams.

This line is eye-opening, and early action has revealed Kentucky as a very public team. I’ll be taking the contrarian side of this matchup.

NC State Wolfpack

NC State’s season was largely filled with victories over bad teams. They have only two wins over teams that finished with a winning record, scoring an average of 31.1 points per game and allowed 29.7 points.

The offense has an overall success rate of 41.1%, but it was strong at finishing drives via an average of 3.9 points per opportunity. The Wolfpack has been a relatively balanced offense, running the ball 53.2% of the time.

Bailey Hockman was the primary starting quarterback once Devin Leary went down with injury. Hockman has completed 63.7% of his passes for an average of 8.1 yards per attempt. However, turnovers are the main concern, as he’s thrown eight interceptions.

As for the rushing attack, it’s been mostly bad for NC State. It’s averaging just 3.5 yards per carry, with a rushing success rate of 40.9%. The offensive line is generating 2.6 line yards per attempt, allowing  a stuff rate of 21.5%.

Defense has been the strength of this team. NC State has allowed a success rate of 40.5%, plus its winning in the trenches by allowing just 2.7 line yards per attempt and forcing a stuff rate of 24.5%. The only real concern about this defense is its inability to get teams off of the field when they get into scoring position. The Wolfpack are allowing 3.87 points per opportunity.

Kentucky Wildcats

None of Kentucky’s four wins this season, came against teams who finished with a winning record. The Wildcats scored just 21.7 points per game and allowed 26.4, ranking 107th and 46th, respectively.  And further hindering its offense, Kentucky will be without offensive coordinator Eddie Gran, who was fired prior to this game.

Kentucky focuses on the running game and a slow offense that tries to keep games low-scoring. The Wildcats run the ball on 63.8% of plays, which has contributed to them averaging 30.2 seconds per play. That ranks 10th slowest in the nation.

The rushing attack has performed well behind an offensive line that has created 3.1 line yards per attempt, allowing a stuff rate of 14.7%. Running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. leads the team with 701 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 6.9 yards per attempt.

Quarterback Terry Wilson has also contributed to the running game as well, racking up 410 rushing yards and five touchdowns. However, his passing numbers raise a few red flags. While he’s completing 62.7% of his passes, Wilson is only averaging 6.2 yards per attempt and has a 7:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Wilson, who has helped Kentucky achieve its 48.7% rushing success rate, has also been the main culprit responsible for the offense’s 34.1% passing success rate — which ranks 18th-worst in the country.

Defensively, this isn’t a standard Kentucky lineup that has been the centerpiece of recent teams. The Wildcats are below average against both the pass and run, allowing a 45.4% passing success rate and 45.5% rushing success rate. They’re allowing 3.09 line yards per attempt and have stuffed 18.4% of attempts.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

According to the Action Network’s NCAAF PRO report, big money bets have come in for NC State, and 74% of the money has come in on the Wolfpack despite Kentucky earning 66% of the betting tickets. And similar to my stance, our PRO Projections have NC State as a slight favorite.

Historically speaking, underdogs have outright won more frequently than they’ve lost and covered. So, while I’m taking NC State +2.5, I will also look to make a moneyline play at the best number I can find.

Pick: NC State +2.5 (play down to pick’em)

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