The North Carolina State Wolfpack travel to Starkville to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs Saturday night in an ACC vs SEC battle. The Pack’s trip to Starkville to face Mississippi State will be NC State’s first road game at an SEC school since 2008, (a 34-0 loss at South Carolina in QB Russell Wilson’s first start).
About the Wolfpack
The Wolfpack’s season-opening shutout of USF marked the first time NC State had held an FBS opponent scoreless since 2011.
In the opener, the Pack had a pair of 100 yard rushers for the first time since 2015. Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person accounted for 352 total yards.
The top four CBs on the depth chart have combined to play 99 career collegiate games. That experience will come in handy this week, as Mississippi State led the nation with 50.6 passing attempts per game in 2020 and in their season opening win over Louisiana Tech, had 47 passes compared to 19 runs.
The Wolfpack returned 20 starters (including 10 on defense) from last season. Every statistical leader (on a per game basis) returned for 2021.
Nine different players are on 15 different preseason watch lists for national awards (three different players – Grant Gibson, Zonovan Knight and Payton Wilson appear on three lists apiece).
The Wolfpack may have its most talented offensive line from side to side this season as any during Dave Doeren’s tenure. The starting five – Ickey Ekwonu, Chandler Zavala, Grant Gibson, Dylan McMahon and Bryson Speas – combine to boast 90 career starts (20 of Zavala’s came before NC State).
About the Bulldogs
The Bulldogs are tied for the SEC lead with five red zone touchdowns this year and currently have a 100 percent success rate inside the 20-yard line.
Quarterback Will Rogers has thrown a touchdown in seven straight games and has 13 TD passes over that stretch. Rogers’ 39 completions were the fourth-most in a single game in school history, all of which have come in Mike Leach‘s tenure. Rogers’ completions per game leads all FBS signal callers.
Wide receiver Makai Polk tops the league and ranks fifth in the country with 10 catches.
Lideatrick Griffin has had back-to-back games where he has exceeded 100 yards on kickoff return yardage. Griffin had 138 kickoff return yards in the Armed Forces Bowl (in which he was selected MVP) and added a career-high 144 yards last week, including a career-long 70 yarder in the fourth quarter.
Mississippi State has had a takeaway in 35 of its last 41 games and created 70 takeaways over that span. The Bulldogs forced two turnovers last week – an interception by linebacker Tyrus Wheat and a fumble recovery by defensive end Aaron Odom.
NC State vs Mississippi State
This will mark the seventh meeting between the Wolfpack and the Bulldogs, the second under head coach Dave Doeren.
The all-time series is tied 3-3. The Pack posts a 1-1 mark in Raleigh vs. the Bulldogs, is 1-0 at Starkville and 1-2 in bowl matchups.
Mississippi State won the last matchup, 51-28 at the 2015 Belk Bowl in Charlotte.
NC State has played in Starkville just once – a 6-0 NC State win back in 1931.
The last three meetings between NC State and Mississippi State have come in bowl games. In addition to the 2015 Belk Bowl, the teams have also met in the 1995 Peach Bowl (NC State 28-24) and the 1963 Liberty Bowl (Mississippi State 16-12).
This week’s contest marks NC State’s first game in the state of Mississippi since a 2006 loss at Southern Miss (37-17). NC State has not won a game in the state since 1963 (14-0 at Southern Miss).
Inside the Matchup
How to Follow
Kickoff: 7:00 p.m. ET
Television: ESPN2: Anish Shroff (PxP), Mike Golic, Jr. (analyst), Taylor McGregor (sideline)
Radio: Wolfpack Sports Network: Gary Hahn (PxP), Johnny Evans (analyst), Tony Haynes (analyst)
Satellite Radio: Sirius/XM: Channels 134/384