Vanderbilt vs. NC State: Music City Bowl Breakdown
Vanderbilt (8-4) vs. NC State (7-5)
Dec. 31, Noon (ESPN)
• Reason to watch: Vanderbilt's 2012 season has been defined by the words "most since" or "best since." Consider: Vanderbilt's eight regular-season wins were its most since 1982; its five SEC wins its most since 1935; its five 40-point games its most since 1915; its plus-133 point differential its best since 1955. This is a fun, talented team that fell way off the national radar after a 2-4 start before closing with the SEC's longest current winning streak, six games. Running back Zac Stacy, the school's all-time leading rusher, is closing his career after rushing for 1,034 yards this season and is the No. 1 option on a team that ran the ball 59 percent of the time. Wide receiver Jordan Matthews is VU's top NFL prospect after a 1,262-yard season, and at quarterback is an improving Jordan Rodgers, the younger brother of Packers standout Aaron Rodgers.
• Keep an eye on: NC State quarterback Mike Glennon. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. recently said Glennon could be the first quarterback drafted in April and a top-15 pick after a steady senior season in which he led the ACC in passing with 3,648 yards. Glennon had 30 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in his second season as a starter since replacing Russell Wilson. One of Glennon's fellow draft prospects is Tennessee's Tyler Bray, who had a miserable day against Vanderbilt in November (11-of-29 for 103 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions). Glennon will have a chance to one-up Bray in that department before heading for the Senior Bowl.
• Did you know: NC State is one of 10 bowl teams playing without its head coach. The Wolfpack fired Tom O'Brien on Nov. 25 after finishing a disappointing 7-5 overall and 4-4 in the ACC. In six seasons, O'Brien was 40-35 and 22-26 in the ACC, though NC State did reach bowl games the last three seasons. Offensive coordinator Dana Bible will coach the Wolfpack against Vanderbilt before Dave Doeren takes over fresh off his successful two-year run at Northern Illinois.
• Final analysis: It will be strength vs. strength when Vanderbilt's 10th-ranked passing defense faces Glennon and NC State's 20th-ranked passing offense. The Commodores feel confident after stifling Bray and UT's 16th-ranked passing attack, and momentum is on Vanderbilt's side. Coach James Franklin signed a lucrative extension recently, the Commodores are carrying a six-game winning streak and the game will be played in Nashville against an NC State squad that is going through a coaching transition after losing three of its final five games.
• The pick: Vanderbilt 34, NC State 20