Music City Bowl Pick
The Music City Bowl has an interesting matchup between lower-level ACC and SEC schools. With one more win on the season, Vanderbilt is sitting as 7-point favorites which should be expected from the SEC team.
But even if Vandy wasn't in the SEC, they have been the hotter of the two winning six straight games. Granted, none of their six opponents have a winning record so it shouldn't be anything too surprising. In fact, the Commodores have not beaten anyone with a winning record this year. In their big conference games, they lost to South Carolina (barely), Georgia and Florida. Their fourth loss came against Northwestern out of the Big 10. The question, is should Vandy really be favored by this much?
In like matchups, they won at Wake Forest 55-21, while NC State took out the Demon Deacons at home, 37-6. But against Tennessee, the Wolfpack lost in their first game of the season 35-21, while the Commodores recently took out the Volunteers 41-18. The one and only win that stands out for NC State is their game against Florida State, which is their only win against a team with a winning record. On the other end of that, they have a disappointed 33-6 home loss against one of the worst teams in the ACC, Virginia.
In the wake of their disappointing season, NC State fired head coach Tom O'Brien. Former offensive coordinator Dana Bible will be calling the shots in the bowl game while new hire and former Northern Illinois head coach Dave Doeren looks for recruits.
The Wolfpack have played inconsistent on both ends of the ball this year. How else can you explain allowing 44 points to Miami (FL) one week then 16 to Florida State the next week, or scoring 35 on North Carolina, then only six points the next week against Virginia? Quarterback Mike Glennon has had to do it all this year for NC State which can be explained with his three 400-plus yard games. The only problem is all three of those were losses. On the season, Glennon has 3,648 yards and 30 touchdowns, but also 14 interceptions. He has three main targets with at least 40 receptions and 600 yards, but Bryan Underwood leads them all with 10 TDs. Their ground game hasn't been pretty all season, although they may have found something in freshman Shadrach Thornton. With only 655 yards, he leads the team in rushing. However, he has rushed for 100 yards in three straight games which is a vast improvement over their previous nine games. If he can keep that streak going, the easier an upset will be for the Wolfpack.
Vandy only allows 18.3 points per game, but a lot of that has to do with the offenses they've played. Against Georgia and even Ole Miss, they struggled to keep the opposition down. Offensively, the Commodores need to replicate what they did in their last game against Wake Forest to succeed. Running back Zac Stacy had his best game of the season and ran wild for 180 yards and two TDs. That was only his third 100-yard game of the season. In the passing game, Jordan Rodgers has been more of a game manager. He has zero 300-yard games and hasn't thrown more than two TDs in a game. In their four losses, he never had more than 237 yards or completed more than 56.5% of his passes. To stop him completely, you need to stop his top wide receiver, Jordan Matthews, who has 1,262 yards and seven TDs on the year. They like throwing the deep ball, as evidenced by three straight games in which Matthews has a catch of at least 52 yards. Both of these offenses can be held in check, but whether either defense can do that is another question.
Not much interest for us here from a betting standpoint. It's a game where a case can be made for either side. When handicapping this game with our traditional methods, it comes up as a fairly even game. Slight edge to Vandy, plus the home field, but it wouldn't translate into a 7 point differential. However, our model likes Vandy by a large margin and that's whether we use season to date, last 5 or last 7 games worth of data. The score predictions are 30-16, 44-17 and 35-16.
If you consider that NC State came within a TD at Miami, beat Florida State and was able to hang 48 points on Clemson, you'd have to assume they can beat or come close to Vandy. That's simple, make sense logic. But the coaching situation complicates things here. How will it impact the players? Will they rally and win one for O'Brien? Are they glad to see him go? Did the change disrupt preparations for this bowl game?
We're going to side with put model here, only because of the coaching situation. It's probably best to simply stay away from a game like this. Best Guess - Vandy -7