When N.C. State has the ball
The Wolfpack is coming off its two best rushing games in ACC play with 276 yards in a win over Syracuse and 308 in a loss to North Carolina.
Freshmen Reggie Gallaspy and Nyheim Hines have improved in the absence of injured junior Matt Dayes.
Senior quarterback Jacoby Brissett doesn’t make many mistakes but he can also play it too safe. The Wolfpack ranked No. 78 in the country in passing offense (210.5 yards per game). N.C. State and run-heavy teams Georgia Tech and Boston College were the only ACC teams that did not throw for 300 yards in a game this season.
The Bulldogs ranked No. 34 in scoring defense (22.8 points per game) but struggled in creating turnovers. They finished the regular season with only one recovered fumble. Edge: N.C. State
When Miss. State has the ball
Senior quarterback Dak Prescott can beat you with his arm or his legs.
He leads the Bulldogs in rushing (541 yards) and ran for 10 touchdowns, in addition to passing for 25.
N.C. State’s defensive front might not be in Alabama’s class or that of Ole Miss, but it has been good all season and should be able to get after quarterback Dak Prescott.
Receivers Fred Ross (6-foot-2, 207 pounds) and De’Runnya Wilson (6-5, 215) are big and good. They caught 136 passes between them and the Wolfpack has struggled this season to defend the deep ball.
The Bulldogs don’t have a great running game, other than Prescott, and the offensive line has had its struggles.
Alabama (nine sacks) and Ole Miss (seven) were able to continually pressure Prescott in road wins over the Bulldogs.
N.C. State’s defensive front might not be in Alabama’s class or that of Ole Miss, but it has been good all season and should be able to get after Prescott.
The Wolfpack corners will be tested throughout and the outcome will likely depend on how successful they are in slowing Mississippi State’s receivers. Edge: Mississippi State
N.C. State’s kick returners rank among the best in the ACC. Bra’Lon Cherry leads the conference with 13.3 yards per punt return and Hines ranks fifth in the ACC with 27.3 yards per kickoff return. Both scored a touchdown on a return this season.
Mississippi State running back Brandon Holloway ranks second in the SEC with 23.7 yards per kickoff return and had a 100-yard return for a touchdown in the opener against Southern Miss.
Kicker Westin Graves has not been spectacular but he has been consistent for the Bulldogs, making 14 of 17 field goals. The Wolfpack has struggled on field goals this season but freshman Kyle Bambard has made four of his past five attempts. Edge: Mississippi State
N.C. State has lost its last four games with SEC opponents, including the 2012 Music City Bowl to Vanderbilt.
Mississippi State lost to Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl last year and is 3-2 in bowl games under coach Dan Mullen.
The Bulldogs and Wolfpack split their previous two bowl meetings. N.C. State beat the Bulldogs 28-24 in the 1995 Peach Bowl and Mississippi State won the 1962 Liberty Bowl 16-12. Edge: Even.
Players to watch
Juston Burris, 6-1, 207, CB, Sr., N.C. State: Burris has been N.C. State’s best cover corner this season and has finished his senior season with a flourish. He will be tested by Mississippi State’s outstanding receivers Fred Ross and De’Runnya Wilson
Brandon Holloway, 5-8, 165, RB, Jr., Mississippi State: The Bulldogs rank No. 103 in the country in rushing offense. The undersized junior is second on the team, behind Prescott, with 372 yards on 79 rushes this season. If Holloway can get into any kind of rhythm, the Wolfpack will be in trouble.