Music City Bowl at LP Field from Nashville, TN (ESPN, 2:00 p.m.)
The North Carolina State Wolfpack (7-5 SU, 5-6-1 ATS) heads to the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn. with an interim head coach in Dana Bible, after the team dismissed Tom O'Brien. They started this season against an SEC opponent, Tennessee, in Atlanta, and they'll end it against an SEC opponent, the Vanderbilt Commodores (8-4 SU, 8-4 ATS).
The Wolfpack have been a hard team to figure this season, which is why the faithful back in Raleigh had been so impatient with the coach affectionately known as 'T.O.B.' This team was good enough to pull off an upset of then-No. 2 and unbeaten Florida State at Carter-Finley Stadium Nov. 6, but they were also inexplicably smashed by ACC doormat Virginia 33-6 at home four weeks later. They held Wake Forest to six points in a mid-November win at home, and then allowed 62 points at Clemson the following week. And perhaps the most disappointing part of their season was when they allowed a game-winning 74-yard punt return for score to North Carolina RB Giovani Bernard to lose 43-35.
Keep an eye on QB Mike Glennon, who reminds many of the great passers of NC State recent past, such as Philip Rivers and Russell Wilson. Glennon managed 3,648 passing yards with 30 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He became even more effective once the team starting to produce consistently on the ground. Freshman Shadrach Thornton ran for 329 yards over his final three games of the regular season. He might have a difficult time against a Vandy defense which ranked 17th overall in the nation, allowing just 326.4 total yards.
So, who can bettors expect to show up? Well, NC State is 7-3-1 ATS in their past 11 games against a team with a winning record. And, they are 5-1-1 ATS in their past seven neutral-site games, although that lone loss came Aug. 31 in Atlanta against the SEC's Volunteers to open this season. The Pack covered three in a row to close out the regular season.
For the 'Dores, they simply need to take a bus ride across town to LP Field. The line for this game opened at 5 1/2 points, but quickly rose to seven points with the public laying down bread on the 'home' team. Vanderbilt has a stout defense, and a talented offensive attack as well.
After a bit of an uneven start at 1-3 straight-up, Vanderbilt won seven of their final eight regular season games with the only setback coming in a 31-17 loss against Florida Oct. 13. That game was actually much closer than the score would indicate, too. Since failing to cover Oct. 20 against Auburn, Vandy has covered five consecutive games. They also had six consecutive straight-up victories, their longest such streak since 1955. If they're able to pick up a ninth victory in the Music City Bowl, it would match the single-season school record for wins (1904, 1915). The last time Vandy picked up a road victory came right here in the 2008 Music City Bowl against another ACC team, the Boston College Eagles.
The Commodores are 6-2 ATS in their past eight non-conference tilts, and the under is 5-2 in their past seven games against ACC opponents.
Vanderbilt has a three-pronged attack on offense. QB Jordan Rodgers leads the offense, passing for 2,431 yards, 13 touchdowns and just five interceptions. If the name sounds familiar, it should, as he is the little brother of Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. The quarterback's favorite target is WR Jordan Matthews, who piled up 87 receptions, 1,262 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Lastly, RB Zac Stacy managed 1,034 rushing yards and nine touchdowns despite facing the rugged competition of the SEC.
Sun Bowl at Sun Bowl Stadium from El Paso, TX (CBS, 2:00 p.m.)
The Southern California Trojans (7-5 SU, 3-9 ATS) heads east on Interstate 10 all the way to El Paso, Tex. for the Hyundai Sun Bowl. We've seen weather serve as a factor in this game before, and Monday will be no exception. While there is just a 20 percent chance of precipitation, the winds will be howling out of the west at 20-25 mph, wreaking havoc on passing games. For the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (6-7 SU, 8-5 ATS), primarily a ground-based team, that will not be a problem. For USC, it could change the way they approach things.
The Trojans will be using freshman QB Max Wittek, as QB Matt Barkley (shoulder) is still suffering from a sprained shoulder suffered Nov. 17 against UCLA. Wittek made his first career start against Notre Dame Nov. 24, and he wasn't terrible. Still, the wind won't do Wittek any favors as he tries to spread the ball around to WRs Marqise Lee and Robert Woods, perhaps one of the best receiving tandems in college football. Lee rackied up 112 receptions, 1,680 yards and 14 scores, while Woods snagged 73 catches for 813 yards and 11 touchdowns. Remember, though, most of the production came with Barkley at the helm. With a more inexperienced QB, look for the two-headed rushing attack of RBs Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal to factor more into the plan.
USC was a tough team to figure, although generally they were overrated when it comes to Vegas. The Trojans covered just three of their 12 games this season. And, based upon weather, their use of a backup QB and the general feeling that they don't really want to be in El Paso for this game, they could very well be on their way to a 3-10 ATS mark. Some of the players took to Twitter after their postseason destination was announced, ranking on El Paso. And, upon arriving, at least one player was chided for posting less-than-complimentary comments about the city on Twitter. We've seen in the past that teams unhappy with their destination tend to be sluggish and unenthusiastic.
The Trojans return to El Paso for the third time, and first since 1998 when they were happy and proud to appear in the game.
For Georgia Tech, they're just happy to be anywhere for the holiday. They received a special waiver from the NCAA to allow them to play in a bowl game despite a sub-.500 overall record. They were the surprise Coastal Division representatives in the ACC Championship Game, just getting edged out by Florida State for an unlikely crack at a BCS Bowl. Upon losing, they slipped below .500, but won their appeal and are glad to be in El Paso.
Head coach Paul Johnson and his team have said and done all of the right things leading up to this game, and they felt slighted and disrespected when USC failed to show up to the Sheriff's Posse Dinner on time, leading Johnson to take his team and leave after waiting on head coach Lane Kiffin and the Trojans for over 90 minutes. While USC said a practice injury led to the delay, and claimed bowl officials were notified, Johnson and the Yellow Jackets were clearly miffed by the disrepect, ratcheting up the interest a bit when these teams finally take to the gridiron.
The Yellow Jackets are making a second straight appearance in El Paso, losing last season to Utah in overtime by a 30-27 score. While Georgia Tech has lost seven straight bowl appearances, they are making a 16th straight appearance in the postseason. They get RB Orwin Smith (ankle) back after a two-game absence. He is the team's leading rusher, and will team with QB Tevin Washington to give the USC defense fits against the triple option attack. As mentioned, the winds will be whipping in El Paso Monday, but the Yellow Jackets rarely put air under the ball, so the weather conditions might favor Ga. Tech.
Georgia Tech heads into this game 4-1 ATS in their past five games, including the ACC Championship Game, but they are 0-5 ATS in their past five bowl appearances and 2-5 ATS in their past seven neutral-site battles. The over is 5-2 in Ga. Tech's past seven non-conference contests, and 4-0 on turf. USC is 4-0 ATS in their past four bowl games, and 4-1 ATS in their past five neutral-site affairs. However, they are just 1-4 ATS in their past five games, and 2-5 ATS in their past seven non-conference outings, and we mentioned their 3-9 ATS mark overall on the season. As far as the total, the over is 5-1 in USC's past six bowl games and 6-1 ATS in their past seven neutral-site games. The under is 7-2 in their past nine non-conference tilts, though, and 4-1 in their past five against ACC opponents. Plus, the under is 13-6-1 in USC's past 20 games against a team with a losing record.