Everything you need to know about Vanderbilt's Independence Bowl opponent: N.C. State
With a stunning upset of Tennessee, Vanderbilt became the 11th SEC team to be bowl eligible. That allowed Vanderbilt to make it in from on-field performance and not among a host of 5-7 teams that qualified on their APR score.
The Tennessee win was part of a strong finish for Vanderbilt with four wins in its final six games.
It’s the first bowl appearance for the Commodores under Derek Mason. The program last appeared in a bowl in 2013, a 41-24 victory over Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl. The program overall is 4-2-1 in bowls. Under James Franklin, Vanderbilt appeared in three consecutive bowls. Previously, it beat Boston College in the hometown Music City Bowl under Bobby Johnson.
Vanderbilt will play N.C. State in the 41st annual Independence Bowl at 4 p.m. on Dec. 26.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Wolfpack:
N.C. State’s season in review: The Wolfpack finished 6-6 and fourth in the Atlantic Division of the ACC. It lost at East Carolina in its second game, then won three straight over Old Dominion, Wake Forest and Notre Dame. But then it dropped four straight to Clemson, Louisville, Boston College and Florida State.
Coach Dave Doreen was on the hot seat in late November, but after beating rival North Carolina, athletic director Debbie Yow announced he would remain the coach.
The Wolfpack are going to a bowl for the third consecutive season under Doeren, but they’ve won eight games just once in his four-year tenure.
What the Wolfpack do best: The Wolfpack like to run the ball behind Matt Dayes (pictured). N.C. State had five games with at least 41 rushing attempts, including three that topped 50, all wins over William & Mary, Notre Dame and North Carolina.
That recipe for success was evident in the win over the Tar Heels, when Dayes had 26 carries for 104 yards and two touchdowns. The Wolfpack rang up 259 rushing yards on the ground, and chewed up a 10-minute advantage in time of possession.
Wolfpack’s best offensive player: Dayes ran for 1,119 yards and became the program’s first first 1,000-yard rusher since T.A. McLendon in 2002. Dayes had eight 100-yard rushing games, including 104 against UNC despite missing the week of practice with various ankle and knee injuries.
Dayes missed about half the season last year with a toe injury. He came back with 138 yards in the first game this season. He was third in the ACC in rushing behind Dalvin Cook and Lamar Jackson.
But keep an eye on…: Jaylen Samuels is the Pack’s most versatile offensive weapon. He lines up everywhere and can do just about everything.
He’s listed as a receiver by trade but has rushed 87 times and scored 15 touchdowns over the past two seasons. He also caught 11 touchdown passes in that span and added a touchdown pass this season.
Here’s a look at the many places Vandy might find him:
Before I forgot, complete JaySam Pitch Count chart (updated with Louisville snaps) pic.twitter.com/fa5kXaRTHa
— Joe Giglio (@jwgiglio) November 29, 2016
Wolfpack’s best defensive player: Defensive lineman Bradley Chubb was third in the ACC in tackles for a loss with 20.5, and he was fifth in sacks with nine. He had at least two sacks in three games, including three against Notre Dame.
Chubb leads a strong rush defense for the Wolfpack, which ranked fifth nationally after it allowed just 104 yards per game.
And, yes, Chubb is related to Georgia’s running back, Nick. They’re cousins.
Wolfpack’s bowl history: This is the first appearance in this bowl for N.C. State. The Pack is the 11th ACC team to make appear in the Independence Bowl, and ninth as a member of the conference.
This is the third consecutive bowl trip for the Wolfpack after it lost to Mississippi State in the Belk Bowl last year, and beat Central Florida two years ago in the St. Petersburg Bowl.
It met Vanderbilt in 2012 in the Music City Bowl, a 38-24 Vanderbilt victory, when Doeren was in the press box after he was recently hired from Orange Bowl-bound Northern Illinois.
Notable: This is the third matchup in four bowl games with the SEC for N.C. State. The Wolfpack has lost its past five games against SEC opponents since it beat South Carolina in 1999. Both teams ended the regular season with a win over an in-state rival.