Kickoff: Dec. 31, noon ET (ESPN) at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn. (grass)
Spread: Vanderbilt by 7
Watchability: The Commodores were one of the surprise teams in the SEC this season. They finished the season on a hot streak and are capable of putting up big offensive numbers. NC State features several big names capable of big plays. The Wolfpack will be coached by interim coach Dana Bible after the dismissal of former coach Tom O'Brien. Vanderbilt is favored, but the Commodores have only won one bowl game since 1955, so nothing is a given.
Shining stars: Vanderbilt -- RB Zac Stacy. He's one of the most underappreciated players in the SEC. The powerful senior accumulated 1,034 yards on the ground in 2012 and found the end zone nine times. He's fast enough to run past the defense and powerful enough to run through it. NC State -- QB Mike Glennon. He's got a big frame (6-6, 230) and a big arm. He piled up 3,648 passing yards this year to go along with 30 touchdowns. He can be a little loose with the ball at times (14 INTs), but he can make all the throws.
Who could steal the show: Vanderbilt -- WR Jordan Matthews. He caught 87 passes this season and he's a threat after the catch as well. His speed helped him average over 14 yards per reception this season for a total of 1,262 receiving yards. NC State -- CB David Amerson. His 18 career interceptions ranks third all-time in the ACC. He has five picks this season and returned one for a TD in the final game of the season vs. Boston College.
Magic number for Vanderbilt: 6. That's how many consecutive games the Commodores have won coming into this contest. Four of those wins were in the SEC.
Magic number for NC State: 2. That's how many common opponents the Commodores and Wolfpack had in 2012 -- Wake Forest and Tennessee. NC State lost to Tennessee 35-21 and beat Wake Forest 37-6. Vanderbilt defeated Tennessee 41-18 and knocked off Wake Forest, 55-21.
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
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