2011 Belk Bowl Louisville vs North Carolina State Odds, Free Picks and Predictions on ESPN

Free College Football Bowl Picks and Spreads: Louisville vs North Carolina State 2011 Belk Bowl Vegas Odds, Free Picks, and Expert Predictions on ESPN 12/27/11: It took a late season push from both teams, but the North Carolina State Wolfpack (7-5) and Louisville Cardinals (7-5) secured spots in the postseason and will meet in Tuesday night’s Belk Bowl. For a young Cardinals bunch, the bowl appearance a step in the right direction with coach Charlie Strong in just his second year at the helm. Meanwhile, the game will be bittersweet for Wolfpack fans, considering former starting quarterback Russell Wilson led the Wisconsin Badgers to a Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl berth. That being said, North Carolina State can still cap the year on a high note, and Tom O’Brien’s team is a one-point favorite in this matchup.

Fans tuning into the game hoping to see a high-scoring affair better find a different program. Neither N.C. State nor Louisville ranks better than 94th in the country in terms of total yards, and both teams struggle to run the ball. The Wolfpack have the edge when it comes to putting points on the board, averaging 28.0 points per game compared to 21.8 for the Cardinals. Still, neither side is likely to overwhelm their opponent with an offensive outburst.

Despite the lack of offensive firepower in the matchup, both teams have up-and-coming players under center. Louisville freshman Teddy Bridegwater took over in the middle of the year, finishing with more than 1,800 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also completed 66.0 percent of his passes and improved as the year progressed. Meanwhile, N.C. State’s Mike Glennon did his best to fill the shoes of the departed Wilson. He didn’t exactly make the Wolfpack faithful forget about Wilson, but he did throw 28 touchdowns. Glennon also had a six-touchdown performance in a victory over Maryland in the regular season finale.

While quarterback play on both sides will be crucial to determining the eventual winner, both teams have been led by their defense most of the year. Louisville was particularly impressive, giving up just 19.2 points per contest. The Wolfpack was a less consistent unit, but the team was at its best when the defense played well. Case in point, N.C. State held the eventual ACC champion Clemson Tigers to just 13 points in an upset win late in the season. The unit was also very opportunistic, recording more interceptions (24) than any other team in the country.

With defense likely to decide the outcome, N.C. State cornerback David Amerson could be an X-factor. He led the country with an incredible 11 interceptions this season, and while Bridgewater improved throughout the year for the Cardinals, he is still a freshman. It may only take one or two turnovers to tip the scales in what should be a tight game. Unfortunately for Louisville, its top playmaker on defense won’t be on the field. Senior defensive lineman Greg Scruggs was involved in an incident off the field, and he will not play in the bowl game Tuesday. Scruggs was a versatile player and the defense’s vocal leader. His absence will undoubtedly be felt.

In the end, the opportunistic N.C. State defense should have the edge against Bridgewater and the Cardinals’ offense. Since neither offense has been able to run the ball effectively, both quarterbacks are going to be leaned on heavily. As a junior, Glennon has a serious edge in experience at the college. Throw in the loss of Scruggs for the Louisville defense, and the matchup looks less and less favorable for the Cardinals.

Prediction: North Carolina State Wolfpack (-1) Covers the Spread

Free College Football Picks and NCAAF Predictions: NC State -1 to cover the spread

Poinsettia Bowl: Louisville vs North Carolina State
Date: 12/27/11
Time: 8:00 PM EST on ESPN
Vegas Odds Favorite: NC St -1.5 Total: Over/Under 44.5

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