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NC State vs. Kansas State: Picks, best bets for Pop-Tarts Bowl in Orlando on Thursday

The Wolfpack and Wildcats meet for all the breakfast pastries.

Iowa State v Kansas State Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

The NC State Wolfpack take on the Kansas State Wildcats in the Pop-Tarts Bowl on Thursday, December 28. Kickoff is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. ET from Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida.

NC State (9-3, 6-2 ACC) had a strong end to the season after bringing back quarterback Brennan Armstrong, who had been benched earlier in the season in favor of MJ Morris. The Wolfpack won their last five games of the season, beating UNC, Clemson, and Miami in that stretch. Their losses came against Notre Dame, Duke, and Louisville. Morris has already entered the transfer portal. Armstrong led the team in passing yards with over 1,600, and in rushing yards with 544.

Kansas State (8-4, 6-3 Big XII) fell to Iowa State in their final game of the season after wins over Baylor and Kansas. Early losses to Mizzou and Oklahoma State all but killed their hopes of a conference championship appearance, but the Wildcats took Texas to overtime and nearly ended the Longhorns’ now-realized playoff hopes. Will Howard, Kansas State’s starting QB, has entered the transfer portal alongside running back Treshaun Ward and several defensive players. Freshman Avery Johnson is expected to start under center in the bowl, and leading rusher DJ Giddens returns, as well.

Here’s everything you need to know and a pick for the bowl.

SP+ Rankings

NC State: 30 overall, 69 offense, 17 defense
Kansas State: 16 overall, 8 offense, 39 defense

List of injuries and players opting out of game

NC State

LB Payton Wilson - Out (personal)
RB Demarcus Jones II - Out (undisclosed)
QB MJ Morris - Out (transfer portal, 719 yards, 7 TDs)
WR Terrell Timmons Jr. - Out (transfer portal, 11 receptions, 195 yards)
WR Porter Rooks - Out (transfer portal, 13 receptions, 166 yards)
RB Michael Allen - Out (transfer portal, 251 yards, 1 TD)
WR Josh Crabtree - Out (transfer portal)
RB Jordan Houston - Out (transfer portal)
WR Chris Scott - Out (transfer portal)
OL Lyndon Cooper - Out (transfer portal)
DL CJ Clark - Out (transfer portal)
TE Cedric Seabrough - Out (transfer portal)
TE Fred Seabrough - Out (transfer portal)
WR Anthony Smith - Out (transfer portal)
TE Christopher Toudle - Out (transfer portal)
TE Trent Pennix - Entering NFL Draft after the game

Kansas State

QB Will Howard - Out (transfer portal, 2643 yards, 24 TDs, 351 rush yards, 9 TDs)
RB Treshaun Ward - Out (transfer portal, 643 yards, 5 TDs)
WR Phillip Brooks - Out (NFL Draft, 589 yards, 5 TDs)
TE Ben Sinnott – Out (NFL Draft, 676 yards, 6 TDs)
QB Avery Johnson – Expected to start
EDGE Nate Matlack - Out (transfer portal)
CB Will Lee - Out (transfer portal)
S Kobe Savage - Out (transfer portal)
TE Ben Sinnott - Out (draft)
RB Anthony Frias - Out (transfer portal, 42 yards)
WR RJ Garcia - Out (transfer portal, 184 yards, 1 TD)
QB Adryan Lara - Out (transfer portal)
WR Xavier Loyd - Out (transfer portal)
TE Christian Moore - Out (transfer portal)
WR Shane Porter - Out (transfer portal)
QB Jake Rubley - Out (transfer portal)
WR Wesley Watson - Out (transfer portal)

ATS/Total

Against The Spread in 2023

NC State: 7-5 ATS
Kansas State: 7-4-1 ATS

Total in 2023

NC State: Over 4-8
Kansas State: Over 7-5

Team Pace

NC State: 28.7 seconds per play
Kansas State: 25.5 seconds per play

Odds at DraftKings Sportsbook

Spread: Kansas State -2
Total: 47
Moneyline: Kansas State -135, NC State +114

Weather

61°F, Mostly cloudy, 12% chance of rain, 3 MPH winds

Our Best Bet for the Pop-Tarts Bowl

Kansas State -2

NC State saw its ups and downs this year, while K-State was able to consistently perform at a high level — particularly on offense (see: top-10 SP+ ranking). The Wildcats are losing their more experienced QB to the portal, but backup Avery Johnson saw playing time this year and proved his worth as a dual threat. With Giddens playing in the bowl as well, K-State should make quick work of the Wolfpack.