It's not the matchup that we've all been waiting for, but the Champs Sports Bowl will provide an entertaining matchup between NC State and West Virginia on December 28th.
Being played in the Florida Citrus Bowl, the two programs will travel to Orlando in order to square off.
Coming off a season in which they finished 9-3, good for co-champion of the Big East with Connecticut, the Mountaineers are looking to end the year off on a high note going into 2011. But before 2011, they will look to improve on their No. 23 national ranking.
The Wolfpack, overcoming the 4th place finish in the ACC as predicted before the season began, actually finished 2nd in the conference. Behind the one-man machine himself Russel Wilson, NC State produced a successful 8-4 mark.
The game may be more than two weeks away, but let's take a look into what the matchup will look like while pointing out some things your going to want to know.
If you haven't heard of him yet, somehow, meet Russell Wilson.
One of the best hidden gems in all of college football, Wilson willed his team to eight victories this year, finishing the season with a stat line of 3288 passing yards, 129 Carries, 394 Rushing Yards, 35 Total Touchdowns, and 14 Interceptions.
Frankly, this kid has it all.
Although the Mountaineers have one of the best defenses in the country, they won't be able to stop Wilson. There game plan, instead, will be to limit the Wolfpack quarterback's damage.
One of the best defenses statistically out there, West Virginia doesn't give up many points or yards.
Ranked 3rd nationally, their defense has given up on average 251 yards per game. Not too bad.
Even more impressive, however, are the numbers given up on the ground. Opponents are averaging just around 85 yards per game against this defense, which ranks 2nd in all of the NCAA. Not only can they control the ground game, but the passing game as well (166 yards per game, 11th nationally).
Teams may overlook him at some times for other big name running backs, but Noel Devine has one of the best chances to succeed at the next level. With the vision and speed to break any touchdown run, he is a threat on every play to take it for six.
The numbers may not agree in 2010, but Devine needs to be accounted for by NC State.
The other member of the Mountaineer backfield, quarterback Geno Smith also put up some impressive numbers: 2567 passing yards, 94 Carries, 158 Yards, 23 Touchdowns, six interceptions.
If this duo can take over the offensive duties, the defense will shine as always. Nonetheless, it's very important for these two to get going in order for points to be put on the board.
Outside of Wilson, there really aren't any stars on the offensive side of the football for NC State. However, that isn't to say talent is abundant.
Starting RB Mustafa Green hasn't touched the ball as many times as Devine, but still has put up decent numbers. If given the opportunity, he might be able to move the ball against a steady West Virginia front seven.
Elsewhere, Owen Spence has proved to be there go-to-guy on the outside. Racking up nearly 900 yards receiving to go along with four touchdowns, Spencer may excel if his matchup allows for it. Don't be surprised if West Virginia focuses in on shutting down the passing game, leaving NC State to beat them through their ground attack.
Each defense has proved to be rather elite in the front four this season, racking up a total 40 sacks each, making the two teams tied for 3rd in the nation in that category.
And for that reason, this game may be won or lost in the trenches. Whoever is kept out of the backfield wins.
Mountaineer Bruce Irvin is one of the best defensive ends on the East Coast and has racked up 12 sacks this year so far. In addition to Irvin, the defense also sports other pass-rushers, including Julian Miller who has seven sacks in 2010.
NC State also has some powerful rushers as well. With all upperclassmen starting in the front four, the Wolfpack will put plenty of pressure on the talented Geno Smith. Like earlier said, whichever offensive line holds their own better and buys their quarterback time to throw will most likely come out victorious.
WIthout a doubt, the best matchup is an intriguing one: Russel Wilson vs. West Virginia' defense.
Two of the best in their respected categories, this matchup will most likely dictate the outcome of this game. If Wilson is allowed time to scramble, make plays, and read the field, NC State will be looking good out of the gates.
However, if the Mountaineers provide steady pressure, force turnovers, and keep Wilson in check, this one won't even close. Outside of their quarterback, NC State doesn't have many go-to-guy's on this side of the football.
Without Wilson, NC State will falter. However, without their defense, West Virginia would probably falter as well.
Each team should have a decent amount of support down in Florida, as the drive is definitely doable from each campus.
However, it will be interesting to see how well these two programs will travel. After all, each had aspirations of getting to a bigger bowl, so a let-down appearance may be in store here.
Don't be surprised if the stadium sells 50,000 tickets. Everyone knows how rowdy and committed West Virginia fans have always been, while NC State will also travel decently (just not as well as the days of Phillip Rivers.)
Bill Stewart has proven to be a good investment after the Rich Rodriguez thus far, racking up a 28-11 record with a conference championship already under his belt. Taking the trophy at the Champs Sports Bowl would only further expectations for the program heading into 2011.
On the flip side, Tom O'Brien's program hasn't been as impressive under his reign. So far into this third year at the head, he has a record sitting at 21-22. Winning this bowl game would be very impressive not only for this program whom was underrated heading into the season, but for their head coach as well.
No matter how you twist this one, the Mountaineers have to get the nod here.
Behind a producing offense and a stellar defense, the only true threat to them will be Wilson. If they stop him at the line, this game may not even be close.
However, we've seen inconsistency from West Virginia before, as they lost back-to-back games with Syracuse and UConn. But in the end, don't expect them to falter in this one--it's too important. Bill Self and his team take home the hardware.
Right out of the gates, Geno Smith will attack downfield, trying to get Tavon Austin involved early on.
Establishing the pass early, Noel Devine and the rest of the Mountaineer rushing attack gets going and never stops. Although the Wolfpack defense proves stingy at times, it never can shut their opponent down for a prolonged amount of time.
Russell Wilson has a phenomenal game, passing for over 300 yards and throwing a few touchdowns, but can't do enough to will his team to victory this time. Thanks to the West Virginia defense creating a few turnovers, the Wolfpack can't overcome the deficit.
West Virginia 28, NC State 14