After upsetting Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl last year, Central Florida finds itself playing in a less-than-inspiring pre-New Year’s Day bowl game only 100 miles away from its campus. Even more depressing is the fact that the Knights have landed in today’s destination (Tropicana Field) three times in the last seven years. Conversely, North Carolina State is making its first trip to St. Petersburg after suffering threw a dismal 3-win season in 2013.
“We are both excited and thankful for the opportunity to play in the St. Petersburg Bowl,” North Carolina State head coach Dave Doeren said. “We know that the N.C. State fan base will enjoy the opportunity to support their Wolfpack in a great city. This is a great reward for our young team that has continued to improve over the course of the season.” I also like the fact that pre-New Year’s Day ACC bowl underdogs are a profitable 20-10 ATS versus an opponent off a win.
North Carolina State takes the field with a good offense that is averaging 29.8 points per game on 402 total yards at 5.9 yards per play against teams that would combine to allow 5.6 yards per play to a mediocre offensive attack. The strength of the Bulldogs’ attack is their ground game that is averaging 206 yards at 5.4 yards per rush play against teams that would combine to allow just 4.5 yards per play.
North Carolina State has averaged more rushing yards this season than it has in over twenty years. Meanwhile, Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett enjoyed a very good season under center, throwing for 2.344 yards (59.9% completion rate) with an impressive 22-5 ratio. Overall, North Carolina State is 0.9 yards per rush attempt and 0.3 yards per play better than average offensively in 2014. The Wolfpack also have solid special teams led by punter Wil Baumann, who earned 1st Team ACC honors with a 40.3 net average. Placekicker Niklas Sade was also effective, making 5-of-7 field goal attempts from beyond 40 yards this season.
While the Wolfpack arrive in town with a solid attack, Central Florida’s offense averaged just 363 yards per game this season, which was its worst total since 2009. The Knights are averaging 3.2 yards per rush play and 5.1 yards per play against teams that would combine to yield 3.9 yards per rush attempt and 5.3 yards per play to a mediocre offensive squad. Overall, the Knights are 0.7 yards per rush play and 0.2 yards per play worse than average offensively, which gives North Carolina State a significant advantage on the defensive side of the ball.
Specifically, North Carolina State is 0.2 yards per play better than average defensively (5.3 yards per play to teams that would combine to average 5.5 yards per play), which gives the Wolfpack a 0.4 yards per play advantage defensively from the line of scrimmage. Central Florida’s special teams have also been disappointing this season as punter Caleb Houston is averaging just 34.4 net yards, while placekicker Shawn Moffitt was only 4-of-8 on field goal attempts beyond 39 yards.
From a technical standpoint, college football teams who suffered three consecutive losing seasons before reaching a bowl game are a money-making 26-17-1 ATS in the postseason, including 4-0 SU and ATSS off back-to-back wins. Let’s also note that .800 or worse bowl favorites are a money-burning 14-24 SU and 11-27 ATS when entering postseason play off three consecutive SU and ATS wins.
With North Carolina State standing at 4-1-1 ATS in its last six bowl games and 4-1 ATS in its last five games following a win, take the Wolpack plus the points in the St. Petersburg Bowl and invest with confidence.