Wolfpack Football is just two days away from its HUGE New Year’s Eve Bowl tilt vs SEC power Vanderbilt in the Franklin American Mortgage Company Music City Bowl, live from Nashville.Â And since Wolfpack Nation is on pins and needles looking forward to this anticipated matchup, it must be time to put together an in depth preview of this potentially program defining game.
OK, so THAT opening paragraph is chock full of sarcasm.Â To be brutally honest, the apathy in Wolfpackland regarding this game and the program’s lame duck coaching staff feels so complete that if one did a search on NCSU fan centric websites/msg boards, they’d likely find more posts pertaining to new head coach Dave Doeren’s former team’s upcoming matchup vs FSU in the Orange Bowl than they would the Pack’s own bowl game, which is but two days away.Â And don’t get me wrong.Â I’m not judging.Â I’ve been just as apathetic as anyone else about Pack Football since late October.
Nonetheless, it is still Pack Football and come game time I’ll be cheering my ass off, no doubt.
But no need to re-invent the wheel here, either.Â Plenty of folks have already done the work, so I’m just gonna send you to them mostly…
- What: Franklin Mortgage Company Music City Bowl (even just the game title inspires awe, huh?)
- Who: Vanderbilt Commodores (8-4) vs NC State Wolfpack (7-5) (no comment)
- Where: Nashville, Tennessee (heckuva trip for the Commodores, huh?Â At least the game isn’t played in their home stadium anymore, so at least they can pretend they got to go somehwere.)
- When: December 31, 2012, Noon EST, ESPN
â€¢ 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.
â€¢ 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.
â€¢ 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.
â€¢ The pick: Vanderbilt 34, NC State 20
3 keys to a Vanderbilt win
- Get Stacy going: The Commodores are at their best when the star RB is getting his carries. They are 3-1 this year when he gets at least 20 carries with the lone loss coming to Florida in a game that was undecided until the final minutes.
- Rodgers needs to forget 2011 bowl: QB Jordan Rodgers had a forgettable experience in the Liberty Bowl in 2011 against Cincinnati. He was pulled in the second quarter after a slow start. That’s not likely to happen this season, but he’d like to bounce back from that bowl experience.
- Limit Glennon: NC State’s rushing attack is ranked 109th in the NCAA. That means limiting Glennon and the passing attack will be crucial. It won’t be easy, though. The Wolfpack averaged just more than 300 yards per game passing during the regular season.
3 keys to an NC State win
- Make Vanderbilt settle for field goals: Vandy’s offense is hot. It has scored at least 40 points in four of its past five games. NC State has the capability to put points up as well, but this game might come down to who finds the end zone and who is forced to settle for field goals.
- Don’t get rattled: Though it’s not in its home stadium, Vanderbilt will have the hometown advantage and is expected to have a lot of fans at the game. This is only the sixth bowl appearance in program history for the Commodores, so expect the fans to be loud.
- Protect Glennon: Vanderbilt finished the season tied for 36th nationally in sacks with 2.33 per game. NC State was one of the worst teams in the nation at protecting, giving up an average of three sacks per game. That trend can’t continue if NC State wants to win this game.
Prediction: Vanderbilt 38, NC State 27
Music City Bowl: PredictionÂ Time (BackingThePack.com)
The difference between these programs comes down to expectations. The Florida State win was supposed to be one of many highlights for the Wolfpack as they competed for an ACC championship. Winning just seven games got the coaching staff fired. Win seven or more games at Vanderbilt and you’re a god, but just because Vanderbilt exceeded expectations and N. C. State failed to meet them does not make the Commodores a more talented team. The Wolfpack have the most talented player on the field in Mike Glennon, who has thrown for nearly 7,000 yards and 61 touchdowns over the past two seasons and may be the first quarterback selected in the NFL draft. The senior gunslinger has the arm to expose a Vandy D that fabricated its awesomeness against the likes of Presbyterian, UMass, Kentucky, and Wake Forest. Glennon and his teammates realize that their failure to get the job done this season put a lot of people on the unemployment line, and they should be highly motivated to win just one for the zombie gippers.
What Will Actually Happen:
Perhaps Interim Head Zombie Dana Bible has devised some sort of trick (setting the hotel clocks back a couple of hours?) to get the Wolfpack awake and ready to play for a noon kickoff. The Wolfpack were at their worst in nooners this season, going 1-3 in early games. And the earlier in the early game it was, the uglier it got. State was outscored 62-21 in the first quarter of noon and 12:30 kickoffs. To make matters worse, the MCB will actually kick at 11 a.m. local time. With help from its stellar special teams play and a couple of three-and-outs from a rusty, pass-oriented offense, the Commodores will take an early two-score advantage. One part pride and one part guilt trip over getting their coaches axed will fuel a furious Wolfpack comeback, but Vandy hangs on, 30-24.
Adding Vanderbilt to the list of teams State should have beaten (Miami, UNC, and Virginia for sure; Tennessee and Clemson were winnable too, dammit) would be a fitting final nail in the TOB era’s coffin.
The spread has Vandy as a 7.5-point fave and the over/under is 51.5, so take the Pack to cover and take the over. (No, don’t. Don’t bet at all. Omega Swami’s predictions are for entertainment purposes only, and, seriously, just don’t bet on Wolfpack football. Ever.)
As far as my own prediction?Â Being a hopeless Pack fan, I’ll take the same tack as BTP’s Omega Wolf…The Pack will win in a squeaker, but I’m not even close to being willing to put any money on it…
NC State 31
Be sure to get over to the SFN Forums and be a part of the most diverse group of NCSU fans anywhere on the planet.