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NC State Wolfpack quarterback Devin Leary (13) hands off to NC State Wolfpack running back Zonovan Knight (7). (Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire)
December 23rd, 2021
The Holiday Bowl will feature an exciting matchup between a pair of high-scoring teams in N.C. State and UCLA.
N.C. State can sling it, and has a top-20 passing offense that averaged 33.1 points per game on the way to a 9-3 record. The Wolfpack lost only two ACC games by four total points.
UCLA, which will make its first bowl appearance since 2017 after finishing 8-4, led the Pac-12 in scoring at 36.5 points per game. Chip Kelly has his offense rolling in his fourth season.
Both teams fared well against run-oriented opponents, proving vulnerable at times against quality passing attacks.
Completing 32 of 44 passes for four touchdowns, Devin Leary was the difference, as N.C. State snapped an eight-game losing streak to Clemson in late September. The junior quarterback continued to thrive down the stretch, throwing 18 touchdowns as N.C. State won four of the final five games.
Leary recorded 35 touchdown passes and only five interceptions.
Devin Leary deep ball 🎯 @PackFootball pic.twitter.com/nPoNTGVq7u— ACC Network (@accnetwork) November 6, 2021
Devin Leary deep ball 🎯 @PackFootball pic.twitter.com/nPoNTGVq7u
The Wolfpack utilize a pair of solid running backs, Ricky Person Jr. and Zonovan Knight, but they’ll rely upon a top-notch passing offense.
Defensively, N.C. State has the edge in the Holiday Bowl. The Wolfpack had a couple of letdowns late in the season, but they featured a top-20 scoring defense, allowing only 19.7 points per game.
The Wolfpack were also outstanding at getting off the field on third downs, ranking fifth nationally in opponent third-down conversion rate (29.3%).
UCLA finished strong, scoring nearly 50 points per game as it routed its final three opponents, and Kelly knows how to maximize his playmakers.
Zach Charbonnet was fantastic, leading the Bruins in rushing (1,137 yards and 13 touchdowns), and proved to be a valuable complement in the passing game (197 receiving yards). Brittain Brown (616 rushing yards) gives them a quality 1-2 punch out the backfield.
Week 6 Performance RB Brittain Brown - UCLA• 146 rushing yards 1 TD (12.2 ypc)• 1 rec 14 yards pic.twitter.com/6kNzW0IKDQ— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) October 11, 2021
Week 6 Performance RB Brittain Brown - UCLA• 146 rushing yards 1 TD (12.2 ypc)• 1 rec 14 yards pic.twitter.com/6kNzW0IKDQ
Dorian Thompson-Robinson isn’t the most efficient passer, but he can get the ball downfield to receivers Kyle Philips and Greg Dulcich, and the senior quarterback is a talented runner, as well.
UCLA will need to tighten things up in the secondary, ranking 111th in passing defense (260.2 yards allowed per game), but the Bruins remain a threat to outscore N.C. State.
UCLA has the offense to set the tempo if N.C. State gets off to a slow start. The Wolfpack stumbled out of the gate and fell too far behind when losing to Mississippi State earlier in the season.
However, this game means something to N.C. State, which has the opportunity to win 10 games for only the second time in program history.
Considering N.C. State’s advantage on defense and the passing game, we won’t go against the Wolfpack.
A close examination of UCLA’s record raises serious concerns. In the Bruins' last five games against bowl teams, they were outscored by a 187-153 margin, allowing more than 37 points per game.
Leary is the better quarterback, and N.C. State will give UCLA trouble on both lines of scrimmage, slowing down the Bruins’ rushing attack.
Our predictive engine is calling for the Wolfpack to win outright.
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