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Vandy at home for Music City Bowl

by Jeremy Ledbetter

Vanderbilt Head Coach James Franklin

Franklin signs long-term deal

What has, by any standard, been one of the great seasons in the history of Vanderbilt football will end right at home. On December 31 at 11 am, the 8-4 Vanderbilt Commodores will take on the 7-5 North Carolina State Wolfpack in the 2012 Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl at LP Field. It will be Vandy’s second appearance in Nashville’s Holiday Tradition. It will be the first for N.C. State.

In news at least as big (from the Vanderbilt perspective), Head Coach James Franklin signed a long-term contract complete with raise and facility upgrades to remain on the sidelines for the Black and Gold. While exact terms of contracts at Vanderbilt are never publicly acknowledged, it has been made clear that the new contract is as much an improvement over the last one as Vanderbilt’s football fortunes of 2012 are over past years.

While Vanderbilt has stability in its head coach, N.C. State does not. Offensive Coordinator Dana Bible will coach the Wolfpack in the bowl game upon the surprising firing of Tom O’Brien. Former Northern Illinois Coach Dave Doeren, whose team is playing in the Discover Orange Bowl, will take over the ACC program next season.

North Carolina State is led by QB Mike Glennon. Glennon (who started all 12 games) completed 57.7% of his passes for 30 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, averaging 304 yards per game. The balanced receiving corps saw six catch more than 25 this year. Quintin Payton led with 48 catches overall with Bryan Underwood accounting for 10 touchdown catches. The Wolfpack only averaged 116 yards rushing per game with a poor 3.1 average. All-ACC performer Earl Wolff posted 110 tackles to lead a defense surrendering 419 yards per contest.

Vanderbilt is paced on offense by all-SEC First Team WR Jordan Matthews and RB Zac Stacy. Matthews caught 87 passes for 1,262 yards and seven touchdowns while Stacy, VU’s all-time leading rusher, totaled 1,034 yards on the ground. At quarterback, Jordan Rodgers is looking for redemption in this game after a poor AutoZone Liberty Bowl a year ago that saw him benched. He tossed 13 touchdown passes this season but with only five INTs. Defense has truly been a team effort this season with four players each gaining double figure totals in tackles for loss.

There are two common opponents, Tennessee and Wake Forest. Each won easily over the Deacons, but N.C. State opened the season with a 35-21 loss to UT at the Georgia Dome, a squad Vandy defeated 41-18. Vanderbilt has won six in a row and sees this as a jumping point to even bigger things. N.C. State had an uneven season and is looking at an uncertain future.

Bowl games often come down to which team is more excited to be there, and that team is certainly Vanderbilt in this game. Vanderbilt won the 2008 version of this game. Look for a repeat on New Year’s Eve.

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