N. C. State vs. Vanderbilt: Strength vs. Strength in the Music City Bowl

Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Mike Glennon and the Wolfpack's pass happy offense will face a stiff challenge against the Commodore defense.

Way back in August during our series of previews for the much-anticipated, ultimately-deflating, signs-of-sad-to-come season-opener against Tennessee, the normally prescient Omega Swami concluded that the game would pit the irresistible force of Tyler Bray's right arm against the immovable object that was supposed to be N. C. State's secondary. Due in part to inexperienced line and linebacker units that were unable to generate any pressure on Bray, the Wolfpack secondary was exposed in the Vols' 35-21 win. The Pack secondary was anything but immovable as Bray threw for 333 yards and two scores, and Bray looked very much overrated in just about every game after that. So much for the hype.

Two troubling themes developed in the season opener: 1) utter total and complete sucking in the first quarter and 2) allowing long scoring plays after the secondary miscommunicated, gambled and lost, played with total indifference, or some combination of all three (and by secondary I mean David Amerson). The Vols rolled up 22 first-quarter points (one of three games in which State allowed 20+ first-quarter tallies (all losses)) and scored on plays of 41, 67, and 72 yards.

Why rehash the UT debacle? As it turns out, Vanderbilt, which will in effect host N. C. State for the Music City Bowl in Nashville on December 31st, is the squad with the immovable secondary. The Commodores flustered Tennessee's bad boy into an 11-for-29 afternoon. Bray was picked twice and managed a paltry 3.55 yards per attempt. The Commodores allowed just 175.8 yards per game through the air on the season, good for 10th best in the country; that's a stat that makes them one of the worst possible matchups for a State team that is a one-trick pony offensively. State senior quarterback Mike Glennon strong-armed the Pack passing attack to 301.6 yards per game, good for 20th in the FBS; however, the anemic Pack rushing attack discombobulated thing managed just 116.92 yards per contest, "good" for 109th out of 124 teams.

Interestingly, despite picking UT QBs three times in their blowout over their in-state rivals, the Commodores shut down opposing passing games without forcing very many turnovers. They managed just eight total interceptions on the season. Vandy is only moderately successful in sacking opposing quarterbacks, ranking 38th with 2.33 QB throwdowns a game, so what makes their passing defense so effective? Their success could have a lot to do with their competition. Vanderbilt played against Georgia and Aaron Murray, and the second highest ranked passer in college football (172.37) torched the ‘Dores for 250 yards and the Dogs quit throwing the ball with a kajillion point lead or Murray would have had a lot more. Though Tennessee had a solid passing attack at times this season, Bray and the Vols were in full quit-on-the-orange-panted-coach mode by the time they played Vandy, and seven of the ‘Dores' 12 opponents ranked in the bottom half of the FBS in passing efficiency. Check out this list of FBS powers and their QB efficiency rankings: Missouri (107th), Wake Forest (110th), Kentucky (115th), and UMass (dead freakin' last).

As the chart below indicates, N. C. State is a team with some glaring deficiencies, but it can throw the football. If Vanderbilt is a genuine top 10 pass defense, this game could get very, very ugly, especially since the Wolfpack are being led into battle by a lame duck coaching staff. But, if Vandy's raw pass defense totals are misleading, Glennon might just send the staff and seniors out with one more gunslingin' win.

N. C. State

Statistic (NCAA Rank)

Vanderbilt

28.4 (72nd)

Scoring Offense

29.3 (60th)

24.6 (45th)

Scoring Defense

18.3 (15th)

116.92 (109th)

Rushing Offense

170.42 (55th)

157.92 (60th)

Rushing Defense

150.58 (52nd)

301.6 (20th)

Passing Offense

222.2 (70th)

261.8 (97th)

Passing Defense

175.8 (10th)

420.9 (51st)

Total Offense

392.6 (70th)

419.7 (80th)

Total Defense

326.4 (17th)

-.33 per game (81st)

Turnover Margin

-.42 per game (87th)

2.67 per game (21st)

Sacks by

2.33 per game (38th)

3.00 per game (110th)

Sacks allowed

1.92 per game (60th)

55 (58th)

20+ yard plays

55 (58th)

64 (101st)

20+ yard plays allowed

45 (36th)

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