Bowl Game Prep: North Carolina State Defense

LB Rickey Dowdy (Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports)

With Vanderbilt set to take on NC State in the Music City Bowl on December 31st it is time to start looking at the threat that the Wolfpack present. There will be a look at the keys to the game nearer the time, but before then we are going to find the strengths, and weaknesses, of their offense, defense, and special teams. We have already covered the offense so now it is the turn of the defense.

Pass Defense - D

The Wolfpack pass defense is not very good and looks to be a unit which can be exploited by Jordan Rodgers and his receivers. Ranking 97th in the country (right behind Troy and Tulane) North Carolina State gives up over 260 yards per game in an ACC which is not exactly filled with offensive juggernauts. Even worse, for the Wolfpack is the fact that all their best passing defense performances have come at home, and that when they travel away from Carter-Finley Stadium the wheels really fall off, to the tune of almost 360 yards per game. Jordan Matthews will have every chance to shine on the national spotlight this bowl season.

One thing Rodgers will have to be aware of, however, is that NC State is a good pass rushing team. The emphasis here is on team as the defensive unit has 32 sacks with no player having more the 6.5 individually. With the ability to pressure the quarterback all along the defensive line the Commodores offensive line cannot afford to take plays off.

Rush Defense - C

North Carolina State is better at stopping the run than the pass, though to be honest, they don't excel at either. They are 60th in the country against the run giving up 157 yards per game and allowing 17 touchdowns on the season. A healthy and rested Zac Stacy should be able to at least meet the 4.2 yards per rush which the Wolfpack are allowing and it is notable that in losses State actually gives up over 210 rushing yards per game.

Points Allowed - B

The biggest tell for the Wolfpack defensively is how they play early. If they concede heavily in the first quarter the offense is not good enough to dig them out of the hole. If, however, the first quarter is low scoring the defense seems to grow in confidence and the result will be that Vanderbilt have a hard time putting points on the board. For the season the Wolfpack ranks 45th in the country giving up just over 34 points per game. If Vandy can get past three touchdowns and a field goal then the likelihood is that they will win the game.

Final Thoughts

The Wolfpack are undefeated in low scoring games this season. If their defense is playing well the offense will do enough to get them over the top for the win. They are also very good in close games with victories of three, two, and one point on their record. The Vanderbilt offense showed itself to be explosive late in the year, and if THAT offense walks out onto the field in Nashville then odds are that Vandy will just have too much for North Carolina State to handle.

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