NC State vs. Kansas State – Sweet Pairing In Place For The Pop Tarts Bowl

In the game formerly known as the Cheez-It Bowl, two hidden gems who are Top 25 in the College Football Playoff are paired up. The Pop-Tarts Bowl features the Big 12’s #25 Kansas State Wildcats vs. the #19 North Carolina State Wolfpack of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Both teams were in striking distance of representing their conferences in a championship game. The ‘Cats lost to the Big 12 Champion #3 Texas Longhorns by three points while the ‘Pack lost to the ACC Runners-Up, #15 Louisville by the same margin.


The key losses on these squads’ schedules show the parity within college football. However, the key losses on the rosters from the transfer portal that cause that parity are what will make this game an interesting storyline. NC State’s top defensive player, linebacker Payton Wilson, will be opting out of the game while Kansas State quarterback Will Howard will not be taking snaps.

Wilson was the Wolfpack’s top tackler under head coach Dave Doeren, having 138 total with 17.5 of them for a loss while recording six sacks. He also recorded three interceptions and six passes defended. While certainly a significant loss, Red Hibbler will still be on the defensive line to pick up the slack on the defensive front. Hibbler’s team-leading mark of 6.5 sacks should make him a point of emphasis for head coach Chris Klieman and the Wildcats’ offensive game plan to protect quarterback Avery Johnson.


Johnson, however, will have plenty of support from his sophomore running back DJ Giddens. Giddens leads the team in rushing while Howard is currently 3rd. The star runner has posted 1,075 yards with 5.5 per carry with nine rushing touchdowns as well as two receiving. This is quite the security blanket for a quarterback who has only thrown 35 times this season, with 23 completions and three scores while backing up Howard.

Meanwhile, the Wolfpack’s top offensive player is easily Brennan Armstrong. As the team’s leading passer and rusher, the key for the Wildcats to claw their way to victory is to stop their alpha performer. Armstrong has completed 62% of his passes, throwing for 1,621 yards with 11 touchdowns and six interceptions in the eight games where he attempted passes. Most impressively, he’s coming off a 334-yard performance against the ACC’s North Carolina Tarheels, completing 71% of his throws and delivering three touchdowns and no interceptions.

His top receiver, Kevin Concepcion, has 767 receiving yards with 64 catches and 10 touchdowns while also rushing for 297 yards as the Wolfpack’s second-leading rusher. Concepcion is the team’s top contributor from scrimmage with 1,064 yards. Even if the Wildcats’ Khalid Duke adds to his season total of nine passes defended with three interceptions, Austin Moore and the rest of the front seven must still be wary of the North Carolina ground game.

With all of these factors in play, this game brings potential entertainment in as many flavors as one can find in a box of Pop-Tarts.

Kyle Nash

Kyle is from Orlando, Florida

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