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NC State holds significant edge over Vanderbilt in passing game


NCAA Football: Tennessee at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the year, I rely on Bill Connelly’s team statistical profiles to help me better understand what makes other teams tick. Sometimes the takeaways don’t crystallize without a side-by-side comparison, though, which is why I appreciate these annual bowl game overviews.

What sticks out to me is how bad Vanderbilt’s offense is on passing downs***, and how poor the Vanderbilt defense’s sack rate has been this season. Both of those weaknesses play right into strengths for NC State, which might—might—be able to dictate terms in this game based on those secondary factors alone.

(***A standard down: 1st down, 2nd-and-7-yards or fewer, 3rd-and-4 or fewer, 4th-and-4 or fewer. Everything else is a passing down.)

If you scroll down the the “When Vanderbilt has the ball...” portion of that post, you’ll see that NC State has the advantage in every single category, on standard downs and passing downs. The Commodores lack explosiveness but at least have been decent on standard downs, so that’s gonna be an important part of the game for them—not just staying in standard downs (i.e., staying on schedule) but maintaining a reasonable amount of efficiency on those downs. When they get into obvious passing situations, they’re really bad.