Betting Odds & Pick for NC State vs. Mississippi State: Why the Wolfpack Should Cover in Week 2 Matchup (Sept. 11)
William Howard/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: NC State running back Ricky Person Jr. dives for a touchdown.
- Mississippi State hosts the ACC's NC State to Starkville as part of Week 2 in college football.
- The two defenses could be trending in a different direction after the Bulldogs allowed 34 points last week while the Wolfpack shutout USF.
- Mike Ianniello goes into detail on the two sides and makes his bet for the contest.
NC State vs. Mississippi State Odds
|NC State Odds|
-115o / -105u
|Mississippi State Odds|
-115o / -105u
Dave Doeren might be the most underrated head coach in college football. After winning back-to-back MAC Championships in his two years at Northern Illinois, Doeren took over as the NC State head coach in 2013.
After a rough first year in Raleigh, the Wolfpack have won at least seven games in six of the last seven years, with a down year in 2019 serving as the only season they missed out on a bowl appearance.
On the other sideline will be Mike Leach, one of the more polarizing coaches in college football. Leach is always a hot topic of conversation, usually for his funny, zany, and sometimes controversial press conference answers.
After finding success in the Big 12 at Texas Tech and Pac-12 at Washington State, Leach brought his Air Raid offense to the SEC where his Mississippi State Bulldogs went just 4-7 last year.
These two teams most recently faced off in 2015 with Dak Prescott and Mississippi State taking down Jacoby Brissett and the Wolfpack in the Belk Bowl.
The Wolfpack went a solid 8-4 in 2020, and did so with starting quarterback Devin Leary starting just three games. In Leary’s three starts, the Wolfpack went 3-0. Leary broke his leg against Duke on October 17 and missed the remainder of the season.
NC State showed it is a team to look out for this season in Week 1, with a dominant 45-0 with over South Florida. The Wolfpack outgained the Bulls 525-271 and averaged 8.9 yards per pass attempt and 7.3 yards per carry on the ground.
Leary is back at the helm for the Wolfpack and looked sharp in the first game, going 17-of-27 for 232 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. While his season was cut short last year, Leary showed great promise when he was on the field. Of all FBS quarterbacks with at least 100 drop backs last year, Leary ranked inside the top five in average depth of target and big-time throw percentage, according to Pro Football Focus.
There are plenty of weapons for Leary to look for, as NC State brings back its top three pass catchers at wide receiver with Emeka Emezie, Thayer Thomas and Devin Carter. Emezie led the way with 47 catches for 738 yards and five touchdowns. His best game last year came with Leary under center, going for 101 yards and two touchdowns on seven receptions. He was the leading receiver in Week 1 against South Florida.
While this passing attack should be good, the strength is going to be the running game. Zonovan “Bam” Knight and Ricky Person Jr. make up an excellent one-two punch and combined for 1,431 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. In Week 1, they each got 16 carries and Knight rushed for 163 yards and a touchdown and Person went for 105 yards on two touchdowns. Person also added a 33-yard TD catch.
Wheel route for the 1st TD of the season! Leary to Person for the opening TD.#HTT
Watch: https://t.co/lRwQ1busNP pic.twitter.com/KmqHvNU0MX
— NC State Football (@PackFootball) September 2, 2021
This NC State defense has the potential to be excellent this season. Last year, it ranked 43rd in the country in Passing Success Rate and 46th in Rushing Success Rate.
The Wolfpack return 90% of its TARP on defense, the eighth most in the country. They return their top-12 leading tacklers from last year.
Last season, the defense did a great job generating Havoc, led by a pair of stud linebackers in Payton Wilson and Isaiah Moore. The two fly all over the field and combined for 202 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and two interceptions.
Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson has been excited about the return of safety Tanner Ingle, who battled hamstring injuries last season. He has pointed out that NC State was undefeated in games he played last year. Ingle is joined by Florida State transfer Cyrus Fagan, who looked terrific in his Wolfpack debut, to make up a strong safety pairing. Both of them had an interception in Week 1.
The Mike Leach era in Starkville got off to an electric start before coming to a screeching halt. The first game of the season was a thrilling 44-34 win over then-No. 6 ranked LSU, which was exciting at the time but turned out to be misleading. K.J. Costello and the new Air Raid offense lit the SEC on fire for a conference record 623 passing yards.
Costello would lose his starting job just two games later, as the Bulldogs dropped seven of their next eight games. The offense averaged just 14 points per game over that stretch.
The first game of the 2021 was a little shaky as the Bulldogs fell behind 34-14 to Louisiana Tech in the fourth quarter. They were able to storm back with 21 under answered points in the fourth quarter, but Mississippi State allowed 269 yards passing on defense and turned the ball over six times on offense.
The Mississippi State offense absolutely refuses to run the ball. The Bulldogs had the lowest rush rate in the entire country last year and averaged just 43.9 yards per game on the ground.
The entire offense rests on the arm of sophomore quarterback Will Rogers, who started last year as the backup but eventually took over the starting job in Week 4. Rogers did get better as the season went on, and finished the year with 1,976 yards and 11 TDS, averaging 219.6 yards per game. But he also turned the ball over too much, throwing seven interceptions in nine games.
Freshman Jaden Walley was the team’s leading receiver last year with 52 catches for 718 yards but found the end zone just twice. He caught four passes for 64 yards and the game winning touchdown in Week 1.
For a team that exclusively passes the ball, the Bulldogs ranked just 81st in Passing Success Rate last season and 126th in Explosiveness, with only Kentucky ranking lower.
The strength of Mike Leach teams is not typically defense but that is just what it was last year. The Bulldogs’ defense ranked 56th in Rushing Success Rate and 48th in Passing Success Rate and did a great job preventing teams from finishing drives.
Leading tackler and star linebacker Erroll Thompson went off to the NFL, but the next seven leading tacklers return. Linebackers Aaron Brule and Tyrus Wheat are both back.
For a team that really struggled to create Havoc on defense, Brule was one of the lone players able to generate pressure for the Bulldogs. He had four sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss and 10 QB hurries last season. He picked up a sack and two tackles for loss last week.
The strength of this 3-3-5 defense is the secondary, led by a pair of excellent cornerbacks. Emmanuel Forbes led the SEC with five interceptions last year and Martin Emerson allowed just one touchdown catch while breaking up 11 passes.
NC State vs. Mississippi State Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how NC State and Mississippi State match up statistically:
NC State Offense vs. Mississippi State Defense
Mississippi State Offense vs. NC State Defense
Pace of Play / Other
NC State vs. Mississippi State Betting Pick
In the graphic above, it appears the Mississippi State defense will have a significant edge when NC State has the ball. But that is a little misleading as those numbers represent the entire 2020 season, most of which the Wolfpack played without Leary in the lineup.
Leary allows this offense to open up and gives them a deep threat ability, while both NC State running backs willbe able to run on this Bulldogs defense. Louisiana Tech was able to post 31 points in three quarters last week and this NC State offense should find similar success.
Wolfpack defensive coordinator Tony Gibson runs a 3-3-5 defense, which is ideal for stopping the Air Raid passing attack. This secondary brought back almost everybody on the two-deep and is a talented group with plenty of depth.
South Florida managed just 167 passing yards last week and this secondary forced three interceptions, something Rogers has struggled with at times for Mississippi State.
One of those interceptions came from safety Cyrus Fagan who said about this week’s matchup, “As a DB corps, we just know that the game is on us.” This secondary is up for the challenge and this back-eight will be able to keep the passing attack in check.
NC State is incredibly well-coached and has both the game plan and talent on defense and offense that will match up well against Mississippi State. The Wolfpack are the better team here and I like them to come away with the win in Starkville and would play them at -3 or better.
Pick: NC State -2.5
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