Music City Bowl breakdown: Vanderbilt

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SDS will be breaking down every bowl game and what to watch for. Check out the Vanderbilt-NC State preview if you haven’t already.

The Game: Vanderbilt vs. NC State

What’s at stake: A nine-win season
Vanderbilt keeps on making history notching back-to-back bowl games with James Franklin leading the way, and the Commodores have a shot to win their ninth game against NC State in the Music City Bowl. It’s virtually a home game for the Dores in Nashville, and Franklin has this program and fan base proud of the black and gold. Vanderbilt made it to a bowl game last season and lost, and the Commodores’ seniors haven’t won any bowl hardware yet for their play over the last four years.  However, they get a chance to go out in style with a bowl victory and winning their ninth game – it doesn’t get much better than that.

Why Vandy will win: The Dores are the better football team
Don’t look now, but Vandy has some legit offensive playmakers and a stingy defense that is 15th in the country in scoring defense, only allowing opponents 18.3 points per game. The Commodores are a good football team that doesn’t shoot themselves in the foot; they can’t afford to. The backend of the defense is tough – 3rd best passing defense in the SEC, and Bob Shoop’s defensive unit has carried the team all season. NC State is head coach-less, and it will show in their preparation and play in the Music City Bowl.

Why Vandy will lose: Secondary doesn’t play well
The one big strength of the Wolfpack’s team is the passing game with Mike Glennon. Glennon has thrown for over 3,600 yards and 30 touchdowns, and it’s no mystery how NC State attacks teams. However, the Commodores’ strength lies in the secondary. Vanderbilt must stop the running game, though, and make NC State one dimensional on offense. The Wolfpack have three receivers with 40 or more catches and a fourth with 31 catches. It will take a great effort from the secondary to keep this passing game in check.

3 players Vandy must stop: QB Mike Glennon, WR Bryan Underwood and DE Darryl Cato-Bishop
We’ve already talked about Glennon, but the Commodores must be leery of his top receiver Bryan Underwood. Underwood may not lead the team in receptions or yards, but he has a team-high 10 receiving touchdowns. The Commodores’ pass defense will have to keep Glennon and Underwood in check, without allowing any of the receivers to get behind them down field for explosive plays. Also, Vanderbilt’s offensive line must put a hat on defensive end Darryl Cato-Bishop. Bishop leads the team in sacks with 6.5 and is second on the team in tackles for loss with 10. He’s the player to watch on the Wolfpack defense.

3 players for Vandy who must play well: QB Jordan Rodgers, RB Zac Stacy and CB Trey Wilson
Jordan Rodgers isn’t Aaron Rodgers, but he’s getting better every single week. The mobile Rodgers has thrown for 2,431 yards and 13 touchdowns. Rodgers must be mobile and make some plays with his legs, too, escaping out of the pocket with explosive plays to Jordan Matthews down the field in the passing game. Senior running back Zac Stacy, Vandy’s all-time leading rusher, has carried 182 times for 1,034 yards and nine touchdowns. Stacy is the SEC’s most underrated and most underappreciated player in ’12, and the Commodore’s offense starts with Stacy and the ground game. Lastly, corner Trey Wilson will have his hands full as the leader of the secondary. Wilson has totaled two interceptions, seven pass breakups and nine passes defended. The senior wants to go out in style for the Dores, and what better way to do it than against future NFL QB Mike Glennon.

MVP prediction: WR Jordan Matthews
Make no mistake about it – wide receiver Jordan Matthews is a baller. He’s very underrated as a player, but he has tremendous game-breaking ability. He can burn you on the deep route, and he can catch a hitch and house it from anywhere on the field. Matthews totaled 87 catches for 1,262 yards and seven touchdowns this season…and you don’t hear a single word about him! I like the junior to have a big game against the 97th ranked pass defense in NC State.

Photo Credit: Don McPeak-US Presswire

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