Here’s a look at three keys for Vanderbilt in Monday’s matchup with North Carolina State in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl:
1. Winning the turnover battle: One of the remarkable things about Vanderbilt’s six-game winning streak heading into the bowl game is that the Commodores were minus-4 in turnover margin during those six wins. And in four of those games, the Commodores lost the turnover battle. That’s what you call playing with fire. They can’t afford to turn the ball over against North Carolina State, especially with the Wolfpack ranked No. 20 nationally in passing offense (304 yards per game) and capable of scoring points in bunches. Moreover, N.C. State has had its own problems in the turnover department. The team has committed 21 of its 28 turnovers this season in its five losses.
2. Pressuring Glennon: N.C. State’s Mike Glennon is 12th nationally in passing and ranked by ESPN’s Mel Kiper as the No. 3 senior quarterback in the 2013 draft. Glennon has passed for 3,648 yards with 30 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Getting to him early and forcing some errant throws will be important for the Commodores, who are ranked 10th nationally in passing defense. They’ve only given up 6 touchdown passes in 12 games, but Glennon is probably the best passer they’ve faced this season.
3. Running to glory: Vanderbilt senior running back Zac Stacy has put together back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons. When he’s going good, so are the Commodores. They’re averaging 170.4 yards per game on the ground, and stopping the run hasn’t been the Wolfpack’s strong suit. They’ve allowed more than 200 yards rushing in seven games this season. Establishing the run will help keep Glennon and the N.C. State passing game off the field, and Vanderbilt also doesn’t want to be in a lot of third-down situations. The Wolfpack are first nationally in third-down conversion defense, allowing opponents to convert just 27.2 percent of the time. The Commodores, meanwhile, are 100th nationally in converting third downs (34.5 percent).