2008 PapaJohns.com Bowl Preview
North Carolina State (6-6, 4-4; ACC) vs. Rutgers (7-5, 5-2; Big East)
December 29th, 2008 @ 3:00 PM (EST) – ESPN – Birmingham, Alabama
This is one of the under the radar great bowl games that not a lot of people are talking about. Why am I so excited about a 6-6 team playing a 7-5 team? Well, NC State rolled off four consecutive wins to qualify for a bowl game, while Rutgers won their last six games to get to this point. These are two of the hottest teams in the country matching up for what should be an exciting game.
Rutgers began the year with very high hopes but opened up with a stunning 1-5 start, including losses to Fresno State and Navy. However, Greg Schiano’s team rallied behind senior quarterback Mike Teel, who threw for over 3,000 yards and 23 Touchdowns, to lead the Scarlet Knights into the postseason. Rutgers hasn’t come close to replacing the ground game production of departed star tailback Ray Rice, so much of the weight of the offense sits on Teel’s shoulders. Rutgers’ defense has played very well during their winning streak, allowing only one opponent to score more than 17 points during their run.
NC State has been a big surprise this year. After being left for dead at 2-6, the Wolf Pack have beaten two ranked teams during their four game burst towards bowl eligibility. By far, the biggest reason for NC State’s surge has been freshman quarterback Russell Wilson, who has only thrown one interception all year while tossing 16 Touchdown passes, eight of which came in the final four games. Wilson is also a threat to run, having averaged nearly 50 yards a game on the ground during the last 4 games as well. NC State’s defense has also been very good, allowing only 18 points per game over the final stretch, capped off by a 4 turnover effort in the bowl-clinching victory over Miami.
This game will be decided by Mike Teel’s ability to throw the football. Rutgers is a very one dimensional team and NC State must shut down star receiver Kenny Britt if they want to win the game. Meanwhile, NC State will look to their star to make enough plays to win the football game. When you have two teams that are playing as well as NC State and Rutgers have during the season’s final month, you look at game-changers and the biggest game changer in this game is NC State’s Russell Wilson. I expect a really fun football game that goes back and forth for the duration but in the end I think that Wilson’s ability to make plays with his feet and his absolute refusal to throw interceptions will be the difference in what should be one of the most exciting bowl games this year.
PapaJohns.com Bowl Pick: NC State 26 - Rutgers 24
by Matt Baxendell
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