Quarterback Jordan Rodgers leads Vandy into the Music City Bowl
Miami Gardens it is not.
Nor is it sunny Pasadena or lively New Orleans.
But if you are a genuine college football fan in search of a new location to take in a bowl game and ring in the new year - Nashville is the place to be.
And sure, the Country Music Capital is known much more for its troubadours than touchdowns, however, it is a hidden gem amongst the 35 bowl games and is an extremely enjoyable and entertaining destination to take in a college football bowl game and New Year's festivities.
Win or lose, fans will quickly realize that there is much more to the Music City Bowl experience than just football, as Nashville has some of the greatest live music establishments in the world where fans can celebrate into the wee hours of the morning.
Although this year's match-up is not one that we as college football enthusiasts have been dreaming to see (that game is actually taking place in Miami Gardens), this year's Music City Bowl should still be exciting even though it will feature two programs who were seemingly headed in different directions during the regular season.
The North Carolina State Wolfpack (7-5, 4-4 ACC) are led by senior quarterback Mike Glennon (3,468 yards passing and 30 touchdowns). Glennon, a possible first round selection in the upcoming NFL Draft lead the ACC in passing yardage this season and his 304 yards per game ranked him 11th nationally.
However, the successful passing attack and the gaudy numbers it managed to put up was not nearly enough to carry the Pack to as many victories as it had hoped as they finished the season a mediocre 3-3 after shocking Florida State 17-16. And following a 27-10 victory to close out the regular season against Boston College, head coach Tom O'Brien was fired. O'Brien has guided the Wolfpack to three straight bowl games in his six year tenure at State going 40-35 overall, but was just 22-26 in an average at best, Atlantic Coast Conference during that span.
The Pack will be coached in the interim by Offensive Coordinator Dana Bible who along with all of the assistants have been retained through at least the bowl game as newly hired head coach Dave Doeren waits in the wings.
The Commodores (8-4, 5-3 SEC) on the other hand, finished their regular season on a roll. After going a dismal 2-4 in their first six games, the 'Dores won their final six contests to close out their second consecutive bowl season under James Franklin. Vandy's 8-4 overall record was their first winning year in the regular season since 1982 and the five conference wins was the highest total in school history since 1935.
A significant ingredient to Vanderbilt's success this season had been their stellar defense. And to counter the Pack's prolific passing attack, Vandy enters into this game with one of the most respected pass defenses in the country as they were able to hold opposing quarterbacks to an average of just 175.8 yards per game, good for 10th nationally.
The 'Dores are led on the other side of the ball by a pair of seniors, in quarterback Jordan Rodgers (Aaron's kid brother) and running back Zac Stacy. Rodgers was able to drastically cut down on his turnovers from a year ago throwing for 2,431 yards and 13 touchdowns to only 5 interceptions, enabling the two year starter to have a very successful senior campaign. Stacy, was able to rush for over 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season (1,193 and 1,034 respectfully) in a very balanced offense under Franklin.
Vanderbilt will surely have the home field advantage as their prestigious campus is only 5 miles from LP Field, but with a very capable North Carolina State having one huge win under their belt with the victory over the Seminoles should be able to make this game a very competitive and exciting one.
Joe Rogers is a college football writer and operates the website The College Football Bowl Report.
For more information on the Music City Bowl click here.
For information on the city of Nashville click here.