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2008 Preview - NC St vs. Rut.
NC State's Anthony Hill & Rutgers' Mike Teel
NC State's Anthony Hill & Rutgers' Mike Teel
Posted Dec 20, 2008

Two of the hotter teams over the second half of the season battle in what should be a statement game for each program. NC State is looking to make a big step up under head coach Tom O'Brien, while Mike Teel and Rutgers want to keep the momentum going. Check out the 2008 CFN Bowl Preview & Prediction

2008 Bowl

Rutgers (7-5) vs. North Carolina State (6-6)

Dec. 29, 3:00 p.m. ET, ESPN

Payout: Not Available   Location: Legion Field, Birmingham AL

- 2008 Bowl Player Profiles, Histories, & More

National Rankings
NC State Rutgers
Total Offense
88th  326.33 ypg 41st  395.17ypg
Total Defense
81st  387.08 ypg 32nd  323.92 ypg
Scoring Offense
81st  23.5 ppg 41st  29 ppg
Scoring Defense
65th  26.08 ppg 18th  18.5 ppg
Run Offense
85th  125.5 ypg 81st  128.83 ypg
Run Defense
67th  144.25 ypg 54th  139 ypg
Pass Offense
71st  200.83 ypg 22nd  266.33 ypg
Pass Defense
94th  242.83 ypg  29th  184.92 ypg
Turnover Margin
15th  0.92  72nd  -0.17
NC State
at S Carolina L 34-0
Will & Mary W 34-24
at Clemson L 27-9
ECU W 30-24 OT
S Florida L 41-10
Boston Coll L 38-31
Florida St L 26-17
at Maryland L 27-24
at Duke W 27-17
W Forest W 21-17
at UNC W 41-10
Miami W 38-28
Fresno State L 24-7
No Carolina L 44-12
at Navy L 23-20
Morgan State W 38-0
at West Va L 24-17
at Cincinnati L 13-10
Connecticut W 12-10
at Pitt W 54-34
Syracuse W 35-17
at So Florida W 49-16
Army W 30-3
Louisville W 63-14
Position Ratings
relative to each other
NC St 5 highest
1 lowest
4 Quarterbacks 5
3 RBs 3
2.5 Receivers 5
2 O Line 3
3 D Line 3.5
3 Linebackers 3.5
3 Secondary 3.5
4 Spec Teams 4
5 Coaching 4.5

Had the 2008 season started around Halloween instead of Labor Day, Rutgers and NC State might be meeting in Miami instead of Birmingham. The Scarlet Knights and Wolfpack were the hottest teams in the Big East and ACC, respectively, going 8-0 combined in the month of November to reach bowl eligibility.

Rutgers’ 7-5 record doesn’t do justice to just how well the school played down the stretch. After putting themselves on life support with an ugly 1-5 start, the Knights stormed back with six straight wins behind a resurgent defense and an offense that grew increasingly unstoppable. The undisputed MVP of the winning streak was QB Mike Teel, who went from goat to hero with 20 touchdown passes in the final five games. The light went on unexpectedly for the senior, who was basically flawless in the final month. Since this team could have packed it in a long time, but didn’t, Greg Schiano is authoring his best coaching job since arriving in Piscataway. A third consecutive bowl victory will completely erase the first half disaster, while giving the program a boost heading into the offseason.

For the second straight season, NC State closed with a flurry under head coach Tom O’Brien. Unlike a year ago, however, it’s being rewarded with a bonus game. After coming close in losses to Boston College, Florida State, and Maryland, the Pack broke through with four straight victories, including impressive efforts against North Carolina and Miami, to reach six wins. The program wound up sweeping its five games with in-state foes, a rare feat that O’Brien can point to proudly. State, too, was fueled by a quarterback, though the situation was starkly different. Redshirt freshman Russell Wilson grabbed the job and proceeded to play like a fifth-year senior. An All-ACC first-teamer, he’s thrown a single interception all year and exactly two touchdown passes in each of the last six games. Not since Philip Rivers was in Raleigh has the Pack felt so good about its quarterback situation.       

Players to watch: Teel has been sizzling, but he is getting help. Rutgers boasts the Big East’s best corps of receivers, led by Kenny Britt, Tim Brown, and Tiquan Underwood. All three can fly, and have combined for 16 of Teel’s touchdown passes. Britt holds the banner for the ensemble, a 6-4, 215-pounder with the aspirations and skill set to play at the next level. This group will feast on a Wolfpack secondary that was last in pass defense in an ACC that’s extremely light on quality quarterbacks.

Protecting Teel’s backside will be sophomore LT Anthony Davis, the budding star of the offensive line. Now in his second year as the starter, he’ll be focused on slowing down DE Willie Young, a quick edge rusher and NC State’s leader with 6.5 sacks. Young is good, but LB Nate Irving is better. When the sophomore wasn’t injured, he was creating havoc for opposing offenses. He plays with terrific range in run defense and mimics a safety on passing downs, picking off four passes and batting away a bunch more. He’s the one player on the Wolfpack D who’s capable of completely shifting the momentum of the game. Irving is that disruptive in space. 

NC State’s turnaround may have been fueled by Wilson’s play in the pocket, but the offense got a ton of support in November from running backs Andre Brown and Jamelle Eugene. With Brown providing the punch and Eugene the flash, the Pack did an about-face on the ground in the second half of the season. O’Brien’s teams have always been built around relentless running attacks and a low-risk passing game, so the emergence of Brown and Eugene has been well-received. Tracking their every move will be Rutgers LB Ryan D’Imperio, who enjoyed a strong finish of his own. Starting for the first time in his career, the junior parlayed 88 tackles and 11 tackles for loss into a spot on the All-Big East second team.   

Rutgers will win if... Teel maintains the momentum he had at the end of the regular season. Yeah, the defense and even the running game stepped up, but no one left a bigger imprint on the Knights’ six-game winning streak than the senior hurler. He’s been like a completely different player since Oct. 25, helping Rutgers to a 46-point scoring average over the last five games. The Scarlet Knight receivers versus the NC State secondary will be the biggest mismatch in Legion Field, which Teel needs to exploit for his side to be successful.    

NC State will win if... it can grind out at least 175 yards on the ground. The Wolfpack must keep the Rutgers offense off the field as much as possible, while wearing down a defense that can be beaten with a straight-ahead running game. In the season-ending wins over North Carolina and Miami, NC State rushed for 416 yards and five touchdowns. That is not a coincidence. It’s going to need another big game from Brown and Eugene, which will also make Wilson more effective when he takes to the air.   

What will happen: A month away from live action can do funny things to momentum. Rutgers and NC State clearly had it in November, but it’ll be up to both coaching staffs to recapture it in Birmingham. The Scarlet Knights were playing at such a high level when the regular season ended, it won’t have much problem kicking back into gear. They’ll provide Teel enough time to outduel Wilson in the battle of the two quarterbacks. He’ll throw three touchdowns passes, two to Britt, in the final collegiate game for both players.    
Line: Rutgers -7 ... CFN Prediction: Rutgers 31 ... NC State 21 

- 2008 Bowl Player Profiles, Histories, & More