Music City, Sun, Liberty and Chick-fil-A Bowls
Music City Bowl
This is the first time in school history that the Vanderbilt Commodores have been to consecutive bowl games, and they come into this one on the heels of six consecutive victories. North Carolina State has an even better winning streak, as they’ve seen success in the past two bowls they played: the 2010 Champs Sports Bowl and the 2011 Belk Bowl.
The Wolfpack arrives well-armed to LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee as they possess a passing offense ranked 20th in the nation; Vandy can counter that threat with its 10th-rated pass defense. N.C. State went 7-5 overall, but that included a disappointing 4-4 Atlantic Coast Conference campaign. Quarterback Mike Glennon controls the offense: 3,648 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Freshman running back Shadrach Thornton carried the ball for 655 yards, but more than half of that total came in the last three games.
Vandy had a better year, going 5-3 in the Southeastern Conference and 8-3 overall, their best effort in almost 30 years. For Vandy, two Jordans lead the way: quarterback Rodgers (2,431 pass yards 13 TDs, 5 picks) and receiver Matthews (87 catches for 1,262 yards) along with running back Zac Stacy (1,034 yards, nine TDs).
Prediction: Vanderbilt 20, N.C. State 13.
RESULT: The Over was the play to make as Vandy took apart N.C. State’s defense in a 38-24 victory.
After serving a two-year post-season ban for various violations, the University of Southern California Trojans are happy to be in El Paso, Texas, playing the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech — even if USC has to face the “Ramblin’ Wreck” without one of its key players.
Senior quarterback Matt Barkley will miss the game because of a sprained shoulder, and head coach Lane Kiffin has tapped freshman pivot Matt Wittek for the assignment. He’ll be able to target standout receiver Marqise Lee, who has compiled 112 catches for 1,680 yards and 14 TDs.
Tech have lost their last seven bowl appearances, but this will be their 16th straight start in a bowl game, the fourth-longest of any NCAA team. Senior quarterback Tevin Washington leads the way with his ACC-record 37 career rushing touchdowns.
Prediction: Georgia Tech 35, USC 31.
RESULT: This time it was the Under which was in play as Georgia Tech took control in the second half and went on to defeat USC 21-7.
A pair of teams named for gusts of wind will clash not in the sky, but on the field at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tennessee on Monday. The game will bring matters full circle for both teams by facing each other as they did to begin their seasons. In that game, quarterback Steele Jantz threw for three TDs to lead the Iowa State Cyclones past the University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane 38-23.
With eight bowl appearances in the last 10 years, 10-3 Tulsa (7-1 in C-USA conference play) has the chance to tie its record for wins in a season. They’ll be relying on their 11th-ranked ground attack divided among three players: juniors Trey Watts and Ja’Terian Douglas (both of whom average 6.0 yards per carry) and senior Alex Singleton, who has scored 21 of the team’s 37 rushing TDs.
Instead of Jantz, freshman Sam Richardson will start the game for Iowa State. In not quite two full games, Richardson is 36-of-80 for 412 yards, seven TDs and no pickoffs. Junior running back Shontrelle Johnson had 504 rushing yards and two TDs, while fellow junior James White added 469 yards and two scores.
Prediction: Tulsa 24, Iowa State 21.
RESULT: After finding themselves down 10 points within the first eight minutes, Tulsa took the reins and cruised to a 31-17 win over Iowa State.
The closing tilt on New Year’s Eve in the Georgia Dome features a clash of two schools who have played each other in bowl games twice before. This will also be the first time in the history of the Chick-fil-A Bowl (formerly known as the Peach Bowl) where both teams each have at least 10 wins; both are also ranked in the top 20 overall in the country. Finally, they also share the “Tigers” nickname.
Louisiana State University are led on offense by quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who had an underwhelming season with only 2,489 passing yards and 11 touchdowns. They had a plethora of contributors at running back: Jeremy Hill had the most prominent role, with 631 yards and 10 TDs, while Kenny Hilliard, Michael Ford and Spencer Ware combined for 1,207 rushing yards and 10 more scores.
Clemson counters with junior QB Tajh Boyd, who passed for 3,550 yards and 34 TDs and rushed for another 492 yards and nine scores. The aerial attack is anchored by DeAndre Hopkins, who caught 69 passes for 1,214 yards and 16 touchdowns; Sammy Watkins had 57 catches for 708 yards and three scores, and tight end Brandon Ford had 31 receptions for 411 yards and eight TDs.
Prediction: Clemson 38, LSU 35.