The North Carolina State Wolfpack (7-5, 4-4 ACC) take on the Louisville Cardinals (7-5, 5-2 Big East) in an intriguing match-up between two programs that are still trying to find their way back into the upper ranks of NCAA College Football. With both teams finishing strong this year, tonight’s match-up, regardless of the fact it’s in a lesser bowl game, will certainly be a great contest to watch and wager on at one of the best online sportsbooks reviewed here at CasinoReview.
After a rough start to the season, the North Carolina State Wolfpack have shown some solid form down the homestretch of this year’s NCAA Football campaign, first by knocking off then-#7 Clemson in a 37-13 rout, and then closing out the season with a miraculous comeback over Maryland, winning 56-41 after scoring 35 points in the 4th quarter to overcome a 41-21 disadvantage after the 3rd quarter. North Carolina finished an up-and-down season by closing out 3-1 to become bowl eligible, and has shown a tenacity for finishing games against good opponents, a testament to the intestinal fortitude of senior quarterback Mike Glennon (2790 yards, 28 TDs, %62.4 completion rate). Taking over for transferred quarterback Russell Wilson (who leads Wisconsin into the Rose Bowl against Oregon ahead), Glennon has been adept at spreading the ball around a talented offensive unit, consisting of top-target T.J. Graham (39 catches, 641 yards, 5 TDs) and Tobias Palmer (35 catches, 448 yards, 4 TDs), and has 6 players with more than 25 catches on the season. Coming off his best outing of the year throwing for 5 TDs and rushing for 1 against Maryland, Glennon has plenty of confidence in his deep wide receiver corps going into tonight’s contest against Lousville’s stout defense, which is giving up just 19.2 points per contest. Luckily for the Wolfpack, their talented offense isn’t one sided, something that will be a key advantage in tonight’s game; junior running back James Washington also knows how to carry a load (and catch a football), generating 852 yards and 7 TDs on the ground will pulling down 39 catches for 300 yards in the short passing game. Staying well-rounded in tonight’s game on offense is key for the Wolfpack, who will want to keep the Louisville defense guessing, and prevent them from putting too much pressure on Mike Glennon, who has seen his fair share of sacks this season (N.C. State has given up 33 sacks on the year, 2.67/game).
Louisville on the other hand starts and stops with their running game, led by Dominique Brown and Victor Anderson. A very key stat for the Cardinals lies with their production in the ground game; over 100 yards in a game, 7-2. 0-3 when failing to hit that mark. Thus, it’s essential for Louisville to establish the run early, and get the N.C. State defense out of sync by mixing in more passes than usual. This is without a doubt a run-first offense, as noted by the 338 pass attempts to 431 rushing attempts put up this year by the Cardinals. As the Wolfpack has been opportunistic against the pass, generating an FBS-leading 24 INTs, and has the nation’s top interceptor in David Amerson (11 INTs), that may be a discouraging sign for Louisville to throw more, however if they want to have success on the ground, they are going to have to keep N.C. State’s linebackers and DB’s honest. There’s no question the Wolfpack will be prepared for lots of rushing plays, so finding a way to get the ball to the Cardinals top receivers including Michaelee Harris (37 catches, 455 yards, 2 TDs, Eli Rogers (34 catches, 400 yards, 1 TD) and big freshman stand-out 6’3″ DeVante Parker (17 catches, 276 yards, 6 TDs) will be critical to keeping N.C. State honest, and giving Louisville a chance to put up points against a Wolfpack team that should be able to score in a number of ways tonight. Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has been good with his passing efficiency this season (%66 completion rate), so challenging the Wolfpack would be an advisable strategy. With the Cardinals a very young squad featuring 10 freshman starters, getting some success on offense early will certainly help to settle them down, and boost their confidence against a much more veteran Wolfpack side.
Betting Lines for N.C. State vs. Louisville
Oddsmaker Sportsbook gets out wagers on today’s featured bowl match-up, and the lines are as tight as can be despite the fact that these two teams have a very different approach on both offense and defense. While N.C. State has been scoring at will with the passing game towards the end of the season, Louisville has taken a more grinding, ground-centered attack in winning their last 5 of 6 games, relying on their stout defense to frustrate opposing offenses and keep scoring subdued. On the money line at Oddsmaker Sportsbook, we find the offensively-superior N.C. State Wolfpack just a slight favorite at -130 odds, while the Louisville Cardinals come in as +110 underdogs. The point spread is very tight for this match-up as well, with Louisville getting 2 points to play with and N.C. State giving up 2 (both -110 odds), and with two solid defenses on the field tonight, the over/under is subdued at 44 points. However, with the way both teams have been playing on offense down the stretch, we could see that points total get busted quickly, as the Wolfpack has averaged 46 points in the last two weeks of the regular season, while the Cardinals have scored 34 points in two consecutive games.
Our Pick to Win:
Generally speaking, a great defense hasn’t been able to overcome a better offense in early bowl games this season, and for tonight’s Belk Bowl, we don’t see much different coming out of this match-up between Louisville and N.C. State. While Louisville is a talented defense and has continued to prevail in tight games down the home stretch, N.C. State is simply a tough match-up for the Cardinals, as their young squad will see lots of different looks from the Mike Glennon-led Wolfpack offense. That Cardinals’ youth may also play a big part in tonight’s game, especially if Louisville turns the ball over too many times; N.C. State is 7-0 when forcing 3 or more turnovers…but 0-5 when opponents give up the ball twice or less. Though I believe Louisville will avoid making 3 or more mistakes, I also believe that N.C. State is going to keep Louisville’s defense on the field far longer than they wish, and defensive lapses late in the game will doom the young Cardinals. Despite losing all three games in this match-up to Louisville, N.C. State rides a hot quarterback and an opportunistic defense towards a win tonight, beating Louisville 27-20.