Vanderbilt enters postseason play riding a six-game winning streak — the longest at the school since 1955. The Commodores are also playing in a bowl game in consecutive seasons for the first time ever. It’s safe to say that James Franklin is getting things done in Nashville.
Tom O’Brien, on the other hand, didn’t do enough in Raleigh — in the opinion of NC State athletic director Debbie Yow — to save his job. O’Brien was fired after leading the Pack to a 7–5 record during the regular season. He had a winning record at State (40–35) but went 22–26 in the ACC and only had a winning league record once (5–3 in 2010). Offensive coordinator Dana Bible will coach the Pack on an interim basis before former Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren takes over on a full-time basis.
Music City Bowl — Vanderbilt (8–4) vs. NC State (7–5)
Date and Time: Dec. 31 at noon EST
Location: Nashville, Tenn.
When Vanderbilt has the ball:
After struggling to score points in the first half of the season, Vanderbilt averaged 42.4 points over its final five games. The Commodores feature a balanced attack and have a 1,000-yard rusher (Zac Stacy) and receiver (Jordan Matthews) in the same season for the first time ever.
Matthews, lightly recruited out of Madison, Ala., has emerged as one of the elite wide receivers in the nation over the last year-and-half. He had 100-plus yards in seven games this fall, and closed the season with 153 yards at Ole Miss, 115 against Tennessee and 144 at Wake Forest. Matthews, a junior, teams with sophomore Chris Boyd, to form the most productive one-two punch in the SEC. Boyd has caught 46 passes for 756 yards and four touchdowns. Stacy leads a rushing attack that ranked sixth in the SEC with 170.4 yards per game. The senior rushed for 1,058 yards, becoming the first Vanderbilt player to top 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons.
When NC State has the ball:
NC State quarterback Mike Glennon is getting some buzz as a potential first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. The senior threw for 3,648 yards with 30 touchdowns and 14 interceptions (four of which came in Week 1). He has good size, at 6-6, 232, and can make all of the throws. Glennon spreads the ball around to three veteran receivers — Quintin Payton, Tobias Palmer and Bryan Underwood each have more than 40 receptions and 600 yards. State will test a Vanderbilt secondary that ranks among the finest in the nation. The Commodores rank 10th in the nation in pass defense (175.8 ypg), fifth in pass efficiency defense and allowed only six passing touchdowns in 12 games.
The NC State running game is led by Shadrach Thornton, a true freshman who rushed for 100-plus yards in each of the last three games. The Pack, as a team, rank 106th in the nation in rushing (116.9 ypg) and only had two running plays of at least 30 yards for the entire season.
Vanderbilt was hoping for an invite from the either the Gator Bowl or Chick Fil-A Bowl but will be forced to spend the holidays at home in Nashville. But don’t think the Commodores aren’t happy to be playing in the Music City Bowl. To paraphrase Franklin, there are “no bad bowls” when you are a program that has struggled historically like Vanderbilt.
Motivation has to be an issue for NC State. Yes, the players are saying the right things, but this is a program in transition that is playing with an interim coach. Nashville is a great city, but the goal for college football players is to spend the holidays in a warmer climate. NC State might not be the most motivated team on New Year’s Eve.
Prediction: Vanderbilt 30, NC State 17
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