Music City Bowl Preview: Vanderbilt Looks to Make History Against N.C. State

Frederick Breedon

With all the notable things Vanderbilt has already done, it can still achieve something that hasn't happened in Nashville in 97 years

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN

Vanderbilt has already made a fair amount of history this year. They've won eight games for the first time in 30 years and will go to bowl games in two straight seasons for the first time in program history. Both those numbers are pretty daunting, though it goes with the caveat that Vanderbilt has been bowl-eligible in consecutive season before and just never gotten selected.

Here's another one: If Vanderbilt beats N.C. State in the Music City Bowl today, it will mark the first time the Commodores have won nine games since 1915. Back then, the program was something of a force in college football; that season featured a 91-0 demolition of Ole Miss that wasn't even the most lopsided score of the year. (That honor belongs to a 100-0 win against Henderson-Brown.)

Of course, that comes with a caveat of its own -- the nine-win season would be part of a 13-game year, something that hasn't regularly been a college football staple until recent years. But it still shows the rarified air that this Vanderbilt team would be breathing. And with a little bit of luck, the Commodores could end up in the national polls at the end of the season -- something that has happened just once in the history of Vanderbilt football, a No. 12 ranking in 1948. (Alas, there were no polls in 1915.)

To get there, the Commodores will have to take down a team that was fairly quiet on its route to the postseason. Except for taking down Florida State on Oct. 6 to end the Seminoles' chance at a national title, the Wolfpack haven't done much to draw anyone's attention. Tom O'Brien is known for not raising a ruckus -- which, by the way, did you know that Tom O'Brien was fired this year? Replacing him for the bowl game will be interim head coach Dana Bible, who apparently doesn't like being called anything. In any case, when it comes to passing or defending the pass, N.C. State does pretty well. When it comes to most of the other things a football team does -- the Wolfpack are pretty average.

Vanderbilt is exceptional against the pass, ranking fifth in the FBS in passing efficiency defense and tenth in passing yardage defense. And it relies more on a solid ground game -- from the likes of RB Zac Stacy -- than its average aerial attack to score the points needed to win. That and the stability in Nashville should be enough for the Commodores to notch one more historic achievement.

Vanderbilt 21, N.C. State 14

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