WHO: North Carolina State (6-6) vs. Vanderbilt (6-6)
WHAT: The 41st Camping World Independence Bowl
WHEN: December 26, 5 p.m. ET on ESPN2
WHERE: Independence Stadium, Shreveport, LA
THE SKINNY: A pair of late season upsets over in-state rivals helped both of these teams reach the postseason and each will head to the Independence Bowl hungry to keep things rolling at the end of the year.
While this game was one of the more entertaining and high-scoring bowls last year, that probably isn’t going to be the case in 2016 given the units involved. Vanderbilt’s defense is the heart and soul of the team and features linebacker Zach Cunningham, who was a unanimous All-American this season after leading the SEC in tackles with 119. The Commodores’ offense has had its up’s and downs but tailback Ralph Webb is one of the most reliable runners in the country and quarterback Kyle Shurmur capped off a nice stretch by setting a career high with 416 passing yards in a win over Tennessee.
The Wolfpack are led by running back Matthew Dayes, who finished third in the ACC this season with 1,119 rushing yards. His teammate in the backfield is quarterback Ryan Finley, who transferred over from Boise State in the offseason and got off to a great start this year before cooling off in early November. N.C. State’s defense is not well known by those outside the North Carolina Triangle but defensive end Bradley Chubb is second in the nation with 21 tackles for loss and is 23rd with 9.5 sacks.
Vanderbilt is making its eighth bowl appearance ever this year and fourth in the past six years while this is the third straight bowl under Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren. This figures to be a fairly even matchup and between the two teams but the Commodores have the better defense and should continue to keep things up on offense to the point where they can secure a close win over their ACC foe.
THE LINE: Vanderbilt, +4
THE PREDICTION: Vanderbilt 28, N.C. State 21