Date: Dec. 26, 5 p.m. ET on ESPN2
Location: Independence Stadium | Shreveport, Louisiana
Best moment: Toppling North Carolina in Chapel Hill easily qualifies. A day earlier, the Wolfpack were faced with the prospect of watching bowl season from home, and head coach Dave Doeren was on the hot seat. But a 28-21 win over their arch rivals went a long way toward changing the entire perception of the Wolfpack’s season.
Lowest moment: A short field-goal attempt to beat Clemson sailed wide, and with it went the hopes for a big season in Raleigh. The Wolfpack were a play or two away from a number of big wins, but none stung more than the Clemson loss -- and the hangover a week later led to a blowout loss at the hands of Louisville.
Key player: Defensive end Bradley Chubb anchors a line that is among the most underrated groups in college football. Chubb racked up 20.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks this season, establishing himself as one of the ACC’s best edge rushers. But he’s also joined by a talented group -- including B.J. Hill, Darian Roseboro and Kentavius Street -- that will challenge any offensive line.
Motivation level: High. This bowl game is about more than an end-of-season reward. It’s about proving that 2016’s failures were more flukes and that the successes are what this team should ultimately be judged by. A year ago, NC State laid a massive egg in its bowl game, and Doeren doesn’t want that to happen again. -- David M. Hale
Best moment: This has to be when Derek Mason & Co. were dancing their way to a 45-34 upset of then-No. 17 Tennessee at home. The win officially made the Commodores bowl eligible, and it knocked the Vols out of the Allstate Sugar Bowl hunt. Vandy’s previously struggling offense churned out a season-high 608 yards.
Lowest moment: Losing 38-7 to Georgia Tech had everyone thinking Vandy had no chance at a bowl berth, and there were some who thought Mason might find himself without a job at the end of the season. Vandy gave up 511 yards and a season-worst 8.1 yards per play.
Key player: If the offense is going to run the way offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig wants it to, quarterback Kyle Shurmur has to play the way he did in the final two games of the season. In the past two games -- both wins -- Shurmur threw for 689 yards and four touchdowns to only one interception. The offense absolutely runs through him now.
Motivation level: It’s soaring right now. The Commodores weren’t even supposed to be in a bowl game a month ago but won four of their last six games and found an exciting offense in the process. A win would do wonders for the confidence of this entire program going into the offseason. -- Edward Aschoff