The 8-4 Vanderbilt Commodores look to put a winning finishing touch on their finest season in three decades when they take on the 7-5 North Carolina State Wolfpack in the Music City Bowl New Year's Eve day in Nashville (noon ET, ESPN).
Most online sportsbooks opened their Music City Bowl odds with Vandy, playing in its hometown, favored by six points, and have since bumped the Commodores to -7.5, according to OddsShark.com.
"NC State has been solid in bowl action, running up a 6-1-1 ATS mark in eight recent games," Mike Pickett of OddsShark.com said in an interview this week.
With 15 starters back from a team that went 6-7 last season Vanderbilt had hopes of even better things this season. But the Commodores started 2-4, with tough losses to South Carolina, Northwestern and Florida.
However, the schedule then turned a little lighter, and Vandy won its last six games in a row, finishing with a 40-0 romp at Kentucky, a last-minute victory at Ole Miss, a 41-18 rout of rival Tennessee and a 55-21 victory at Wake Forest.
So the Commodores finished at 5-3 in SEC play, the first time they've posted a winning conference record since 1982.
NC State, meanwhile, hoped to contend for the ACC title this year, but came up short. The Pack started with a loss to Tennessee, then won three games in a row, then lost at Miami, then upset Florida State and beat Maryland to get to 5-2.
But back-to-back losses to North Carolina and Virginia put a damper on the Pack's chances to win the conference, and they later gave up 62 points in losing to Clemson.
North Carolina State beat Boston College 27-10 to finish at 4-4 in ACC play, but a few days later canned coach Tom O'Brien. The Wolfpack then hired coach Dave Doeren away from Northern Illinois to take over the program, but offensive coordinator Dana Bible will coach the Pack in the bowl game.
Statistically speaking Vandy outgained opponents this season by a 393-326 YPG margin, and outrushed foes 171-151.
NC State outgained opponents by a 421-420 YPG margin, but got outrushed 158-117. However, with QB Mike Glennon throwing for over 3,600 yards, the Wolfpack averaged more than 300 YPG through the air.
These teams played two common opponents this season. Vandy beat Tennessee 41-18 and Wake Forest 55-21, while NC State beat Wake 37-6 but lost to the Vols 35-21.
The Wolfpack is playing in a bowl for the third straight season. Last year they beat Louisville in the Belk Bowl 31-24.
The Commodores are playing in a bowl for the second straight season. Last year they lost to Cincinnati in the Liberty Bowl 31-24.
Music City Bowl Pick: We love what Vanderbilt has done this season, and they'll be playing in front of a hometown crowd. But seven points seems a bit much going against a team that can throw the ball like State. We'll take the points with the Wolfpack. (Courtesy of PickShark.com.)