The Vanderbilt Commodores flew under the radar this season with an 8-4 campaign. Not only that, but they won their final six games and appear to be riding high heading into the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl against the North Carolina State Wolfpack on New Year’s Eve.
Although the Commodores finished 8-4, their record may be a bit misleading. Despite playing in the tough SEC, Vanderbilt didn’t play any of the top three teams from the West in Alabama, LSU, and Texas A&M. However, the Commodores defense was impressive this year and ranked statistically as one of the best in the nation. They conceded an average of just 18.3 points per game, which ranked 14th in the country. Vanderbilt also only gave up 30 points or more twice all season.
One player to keep an eye on in this one for Vanderbilt is receiver Jordan Matthews. He had 1,262 yards receiving in 2012 on 87 catches, to go along with seven scores. Matthews is also a speed guy who is a major threat after the catch, and his 14.5 yard reception average can attest to that. He has helped spark the Vanderbilt offense which has posted at least 40 points in four of its last five games.
It will be North Carolina State and quarterback Mike Glennon’s job to find some holes in the Commodores defensive unit. At 6-6 and 230 lbs, Glennon proved he could make all the throws this year and racked up 3,648 yards passing and 30 touchdowns. The Wolfpack also ranked 20th in the nation with over 300 passing yards a game.
North Carolina State’s fate will probably depend on which Wolfpack team shows up. If the squad that upset the Florida State Seminoles 17-16 earlier in the year makes an appearance, then the Wolfpack have a real chance to win. However, if they turn in a performance like the one that saw them get crushed 33-6 against a 4-8 Virginia team, then Vanderbilt won’t have any trouble disposing of them.
The Commodores have been the more consistent of the two teams this season, but with just one bowl win since 1955 to their credit, it’s hard to trust them. Chances are this game will be tight and may very well come down to a key play or two late in the ball game. Whoever finds a way to execute those plays, will kick the New Year off on the right foot.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter at @amato_mike