Four games dot the schedule on New Year’s Eve, starting at noon ET and lasting almost up until he ball drops in Times Square. We couldn’t think of a better way to ring in 2013.
Music City Bowl – N.C. State vs. Vanderbilt (12 p.m. ET, ESPN): Vanderbilt has won six straight and has only dropped one game to a team ranked outside the top 10 this season. Quarterback Jordan Rodgers has taken off in the second half of the season, throwing 10 of his 13 touchdowns over his past handful of games. But like most of the heavy hitters in the SEC, James Franklin’s team wins with defense. The Commodores have the fifth best pass efficiency defense in the country, allowing a completion rate a shade under 52 percent with six touchdowns against eight interceptions. Vanderbilt also ranks 14th nationally in scoring defense and produced the sixth-most tackles for loss in college football.
N.C. State arrives in Nashville on the heels of a schizophrenic season. The Wolfpack never allowed more than 18 points in its seven wins, and never allowed less than 33 points in its six losses. In fact, if things are going to go south for N.C. State, they go south early. The Wolfpack allowed a sum of 97 points in the first quarters of its five losses, nearly 20 points per game and never less than 13 points. For interim head coach Dana Bible, victory lies in the hands of quarterback Mike Glennon, who has tossed 10 touchdowns in his last three games, against the prolific Vanderbilt secondary.
Sun Bowl – USC vs. Georgia Tech (2 p.m. ET, CBS): Five gold stars go to whoever pegged this match-up back in August. Matt Barkley’s shoulder will keep him on the sidelines, thereby officially beginning the Max Wittek era at USC. Wittek completed 14-of-23 passes for 186 yards with a touchdown and two picks against Notre Dame. His learning curve won’t be nearly as steep this time around, facing a pass efficiency defense that ranks 80th and a scoring defense ranked 77th nationally.
Monte Kiffin coaches his final game at USC against Paul Johnson’s ultra-precise running game. The Yellow Jackets pound out 312 yards per game and with 5.45 yards per carry on 57 rushes per game. Kiffin and co. had nearly two months to learn from its last outing against an elite rushing offense, when Oregon pounded out 426 rushing yards in a 62-51 Ducks win.
Liberty Bowl – Iowa State vs. Tulsa (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN): This game may be the hardest to figure among today’s quadruple-header. On paper, the match-ups favor 10-3 Tulsa over 6-6 Iowa State, but the Cyclones defeated Tulsa 38-23 on the season’s opening Saturday.
These squads enter today’s game on opposite trajectories. After a 3-0 start, Iowa State dropped six of its nine Big 12 games. Tulsa, on the other hand, has won 10 of its 12 games since the defeat to Iowa State, taking the Conference USA title in the process. Iowa State quarterbacks must turn around their late-season struggles for the Cyclones to win. The win over Kansas was the only time ISU quarterbacks threw more touchdowns than interceptions in November.
Chick-fil-A Bowl – LSU vs. Clemson (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN): The Georgia Dome has become something of a home away from home for Les Miles’ program with a four-game winning streak dating back to the 2007 SEC Championship. The Bayou Bengals will lean on their defense to up that winning streak to five.
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd has had one of the best under-the-radar seasons in college football, but John Chavis’ unit comes uniquely equipped to slow the Clemson offense down. Against the closest thing LSU has seen to Boyd, the Tigers limited Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel to (for him) only 303 total yards with no touchdowns and four turnovers. Boyd struggled in his last outing against South Carolina, a similar foe to LSU, producing just 209 yards from scrimmage with two total touchdowns against two picks. If Clemson’s offense is unable to stay on the field, LSU’s stable of running backs figure to wear down Clemson’s 62nd-ranked rushing defense.