Bowl Breakdown: Champs Sports
Bowl will be first look at West Virginia's bizarre new coaching situation
WVU boasts nation's No. 2 scoring defense, but NC State is dynamic
Noel Devine will be playing his last college game; will Russell Wilson?
NC State (8-4) vs. No. 22 West Virginia (9-3)
Dec. 28, 6:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Reason to watch: The Champs Sports Bowl will be the first look at West Virginia's bizarre new coaching situation. Usually when a program names a coach-in-waiting, the current head coach plans to retire. Mountaineers coach Bill Stewart had no such intention, but athletic director Oliver Luck hired Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen as the offensive-coordinator-for-now and head coach beginning in 2012 because Luck "didn't believe we had an opportunity to win a national championship with the direction of the program" under Stewart. This will be the final game at West Virginia for offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen and offensive line coach Dave Johnson, who actually were fired weeks ago but didn't learn of their pending unemployment until earlier this month.
Keep an eye on: This could be the final college game for NC State quarterback Russell Wilson, who has several options to consider. Wilson, who has thrown for 3,288 yards and 26 touchdowns this season, could return to Raleigh for his senior season. Or he could declare for the NFL draft. Or Wilson could choose to concentrate on baseball; the Colorado Rockies selected the second baseman in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, and he's scheduled to play next spring for the Class A Asheville (N.C.) Tourists. Of course, Wilson could try to go the Bo Jackson/Deion Sanders route and play both sports professionally.
Did you know: West Virginia is the only FBS program that didn't allow more than 21 points in any game. The Mountaineers rank second in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 12.8 points a game.
Final analysis: While West Virginia has been stingy on defense, NC State's might be the most dynamic offense the Mountaineers will face this season. The Wolfpack average 32.6 points a game and 406.7 yards a game. But NC State may have to score points to keep up with West Virginia. Tailback Noel Devine has struggled most of the season with foot and ankle injuries, but he'll be playing his final college game only a few hours from his hometown of Fort Myers, Fla. One of the nation's most electrifying players in the past few seasons will want to go out on a high note.
The pick: West Virginia 27, NC State 24
SI.com NFL draft analyst Tony Pauline shares his thoughts on the top pro prospects in this matchup:
West Virginia: S Robert Sands -- Sands is an imposing figure in the secondary, measuring in at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds. He plays to his size and is a powerful defensive back who makes plays sideline-to-sideline as well as up the field. Scouts agree Sands comes with an enormous upside, but the consensus is that his game still needs plenty of work. Sands is a year away from being NFL ready. Grade: Second- to third-round prospect.
NC State: LB Nate Irving -- Irving did a sensational job this season after missing 2009 due to injuries sustained in a serious automobile accident. He's a fluid linebacker who is at his best when pursuing the action around the field. Pre-draft medical exams will dictate where Irving is selected next April. Grade: Fourth-round prospect.
SI Now Live Friday December 20, 2013
SI Now: Olympians on Liberty Mutual, gearing up for Sochi