A Devine runner takes the field tonight

A statistical preview of the Champs Sports Bowl between the No. 22 West Virginia Mountaineers and the North Carolina State Wolfpack (ESPN, 6:30 ET).

West Virginia has won 4 straight games entering the bowl and owns one of the best defenses in the country. They rank second in the country in rush yards per game and points per game, and third in total yards per game and sacks per game. In fact, the Mountaineers are the only team in the nation that hasn’t allowed more than 21 points in a game this season.

West Virginia’s defense has allowed just four touchdowns this season when the opponent starts a drive at or inside its own 25 yard-line, the fewest of any FBS team.

A big reason for this is West Virginia’s ability to prevent big plays. The Mountaineers have allowed only 103 plays of 10 yards or more this season; only TCU has allowed fewer.

Geno Smith vs Russell Wilson, 2010
Throws of 10+ Yards, Conference Games

N.C. State shouldn’t expect many big plays in the passing game, especially as quarterback Russell Wilson is compared to WVU signal-caller Geno Smith.

Wilson is coming off an awful 7-for-25 performance against Maryland on throws of 10 or more yards downfield while Smith has had good results throwing downfield this season.

West Virginia will look to Noel Devine for big plays in the run game as well. The senior running back is approaching former Mountaineer quarterback Pat White for the FBS lead in 30-yard runs since 2004. Devine is the only active player on this list.

30-Yard Rush Leaders
FBS Since 2004

Devine isn’t the only player in this game who makes plays on the ground. Russell Wilson is a big threat to take off on third down and keep the chains moving.

On third down and five-or-more to go, Wilson leads the country in rushing first downs with 13. Heisman winner Cam Newton of Auburn and Jeffrey Godfrey of UCF are tied for second with 10 each.

When Wilson looks to throw, look for him to have success when taking snaps under center. Nearly 88 percent of his passes in conference games came from the shotgun, but he had success in his limited snaps under center. He completed 70 percent of his pass attempts and didn’t throw an interception after taking the snap under center and his pass efficiency was more than 70 points higher than when throwing out of the shotgun.