N. C. State vs. Vanderbilt: Onwards Math Jet

Mike DiNovo-US PRESSWIRE

Jordan Mathews is one of the nation's most productive receivers, but Vanderbilt lives and dies by the ground game.

It would be an understatement to say that former National Honors Society member Onwards Math Jet, better known to the public by his non-anagram moniker Jordan Matthews, is the favorite target of Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers. Math Jet, a junior, ranks seventh in the FBS with 1,262 receiving yards, which accounts for 47% of the Commodores' total passing yardage for the season. Senior Zac Stacy lends the ground muscle to the Commodore attack; Stacy rushed for 1,087 yards to make Vanderbilt one of just 14 FBS programs to boast both a thousand-yard receiver and rusher, and promising freshman Brian Kimbrow ably spells Stacy. Kimbrow added 432 yards on a team best 6.4 yards per carry.

Interestingly, Math Jet gains about 20 more yards per game in Vandy losses compared to its wins, while Stacy gains almost 30 more yards in wins compared to losses. Stacy also averages a touchdown per game in wins but has just one in four Commodore setbacks. These statistics suggest that Vanderbilt is a run-first offense that relies on Rodgers to manage the game rather than win it. And team stats further bear that out: the Commodores employed a 60-40 run-pass ratio for the season. Certainly Vanderbilt can beat you on the ground or through the air, but if Rodgers is forced to look for Math Jet a little more than usual, that is probably advantage N. C. State.

Stopping the run is certainly a key barometer for success for the Wolfpack. They yielded 3.5 yards per carry and six touchdowns in wins but were gashed for five yards per carry and 11 touchdowns in losses. The Commodore run split is even more extreme. They averaged five yards a pop and scored 21 touchdowns on the ground in wins but managed just 2.58 yards and one score in losses. Unfortunately, the season trend against the run does not bode well for the Pack's chances of bottling up Stacy and making Vanderbilt one dimensional. State gave up 3.38 yards per carry in August/September, 4.21 in October, and 5.01 in November.

N. C. State threw the ball on 53.6% of its offensive plays and had nearly 160 more offensive snaps than the Commodores. These numbers are telling: the Wolfpack lacked a consistent ground game, often played from behind, and preferred a quicker pace than their Music City Bowl opponent even if that pace was often dictated by necessity. State was 12th in the FBS in total offensive snaps; Vandy ranked 96th. These numbers make Math Jet's season stand out all the more; despite the Commodores' slow pace and preference for matriculating the ball down the field via the running game, Math Jet caught 39 more passes than Quintin Payton, State's leading receiver.

The Pack zombie coaching staff might want to game plan a bit for #87, but ultimately what the Pack can (or can't) do with Stacy and Kimbrow will have the greater impact on the game's outcome.

See the chart below for each team's statistical leaders on offense (*one carry/reception per team game to qualify):

N. C. State

Statistical Leaders

Vanderbilt

Passing Stats

Glennon (511)

Attempts

Rodgers (294)

Glennon (295)

Completions

Rodgers (175)

Glennon (57.7%)

Completion %

Rodgers (59.5%)

Glennon (3,648)

Yards

Rodgers (2,431)

Glennon (30/14)

TD/INT

Rodgers (13/5)

Glennon (131.6)

QB rating

Rodgers (140.2)

Rushing Stats

Thornton (142)

Attempts

Stacy (182)

Thornton (655)

Yards

Stacy (1,087)

Thornton (4.6)

Yards per carry*

Kimbrow (6.4)

Creecy (4)

TD

Stacy (9)

Receiving Stats

Payton (48)

Receptions

Matthews (87)

Payton (761)

Yards

Matthews (1,262)

Smith (16.6)

Yards per catch*

Boyd (16.4)

Underwood (10)

TD

Matthews (7)

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