North Carolina State Wolfpack vs. Kentucky Wildcats Taxslayer Bowl Betting Picks and Predictions

December 31, 2020

Date:Saturday, January 2nd
Time:12:00 PM ET
Network:ESPN
Venue:TIAA Bank Field
Spread:Kentucky -2
O/U:50.5

The 8-3 NC State Wolfpack will meet up with the 4-6 Kentucky Wildcats at 12:00 PM ET on Saturday in the Taxslayer Bowl. The Wildcats come into the ballgame as two-point favorites and we’re expecting a defensive showdown with a 50.5 over/under. You can tune into the matchup on ESPN. Both teams play similarly, so it will be interesting to see who will ultimately prevail. Let’s dive into how this game will go down and who will end up covering the spread. Make sure to check out the rest of our CFB Picks and Predictions as we will have every single bowl game covered.

Trends

  • Wolfpack are 0-6 ATS in their last 6 games after allowing less than 20 points in their previous game.
  • Wildcats are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games after scoring more than 40 points in their previous game.
  • Under is 4-1 in Wolfpack last 5 non-conference games.Over is 20-6 in Wildcats last 26 non-conference games.
  • Under is 11-4 in Wildcats last 15 games after accumulating more than 450 total yards in their previous game.

When The North Carolina State Wolfpack Have The Ball

The Wolfpack have solidified themselves as a very good team. Their three losses are all quality against Virginia Tech, Miami, and North Carolina – three teams ranked between 11th and 20th when they faced off with the Wolfpack. QB Bailey Hockman isn’t a guy I love very much, but he has been a lot better than he was to begin the season. All the tools are there when Hockman can stay confident in the pocket and deliver a strike. He just too often evades pressure that isn’t really there and he’s not a good thrower on the run. He’s up to 1,820 yards with 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He must take better care of the football against an SEC defense that will be on the hunt. 

When Hockman drops back, his primary target is WR Emeka Emezie. He’s now been the Wolfpack WR1 for three seasons and is one of the more steady wideouts in the country. Thayer Thomas and Devin Carter are his complementary pieces and both have possible futures in the NFL. That’s without mentioning 6’7 TE Cary Angeline. He’s tied with Thomas for the team lead with six touchdowns catches on top of 412 yards. 

The backfield is a two-headed monster with Zonovan Knight (736 yards, 9 TD) and Ricky Person Jr. (635 yards, 4 TD) at the wheel. Both have also caught 17+ balls out of the backfield, and the added versatility helps this offense in a big way. Still, it will come down to the NC State defense making enough plays. The SEC team is always going to have more raw talent, but Kentucky is a team you can take advantage of with discipline. 

When The Kentucky Wildcats Have The Ball

It’s been a season full of hurt for the Wildcats, who have lost two more games than they won. Facing a brutal SEC schedule, Kentucky lost to Auburn, Ole Miss, Florida, Alabama, Missouri, and Georgia. Their only real quality win of the season came in a blowout over Tennessee when they were ranked 18th in the country. Kentucky has just never found a rhythm in the grand scheme of things and HC Bob Stoops has admitted the team is “tired”. The offense must show up against a solid NC State defense that won’t make anything easy.

Offensively, dual-threat QB Terry Wilson puts a lot on his shoulders. He’s thrown it for 1,095 yards and seven scores with 410 rushing yards and another five touchdowns. When Wilson is playing at his best, there are few in the nation as dangerous on a single play. He has a clear number one target in WR Josh Ali, who’s up to 49 catches for 462 yards and a touchdown. The second-leading receiver has just 14 catches, so Ali will see 10+ targets here at a minimum. 

Outside of Wilson running the ball, Chris Rodriguez Jr. (701 yards, 9 TD) and Amir Rose (518 yards, 2 TD) are a solid core to lean on. Rodriguez is a bit more flashy while Rose doesn’t mind driving through you. Rose is also a receiving threat out of the backfield, so you’ll see him more often on third downs. This is far from a consistent offense, but all the tools are there if they can take care of the football and get it to their all-world weapons. 

Spread Prediction

The Pick: NC State +2

The Wolfpack might not have the SEC roster full of three and four-star recruits, but they are the all-around better team here and I’m having a hard time trying to figure out where Kentucky is the better team. You’d assume the trenches, but NC State is massive on both sides of the football and they ranked 3rd against the run in the ACC. I’m not a huge fan of the QB for either of these teams, and it’ll be a major key for both teams to limit the turnovers. I lean the Wolfpack as Kentucky isn’t a team that we’ve been able trust all season long. NC State has two quality wins in their resume, so they know how to beat good football teams. I expect the Wolfpack to pick up an early lead and for the Wildcats to have a hard time ever catching up.

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Total Prediction

The Pick: Under 50.5
Final Score Prediction: NC State 24, Kentucky 21

The under is easily my favorite bet here. Neither offense is explosive and both defenses are solid. They won’t bring the house down, but you also won’t see these teams put points up in a hurry. Both offenses want to establish the run and neither plays with a massive sense of urgency. We also don’t have a quarterback in this game that’s going to take over. Neither of these guys are set on throwing the ball downfield and they aren’t all that great at converting in the red zone either. This is a pretty accurate number, though I would put it closer to 47 or 48. For that reason, give me the under. I still like NC State ATS a bit more.

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