Music City Bowl
Who: North Carolina State (7-5) vs. Vanderbilt (8-4).
Time & TV: Noon, ESPN.
Where: LP Field, Nashville, Tenn.
Line: Vanderbilt by 7 1/2
Series record: Vanderbilt 1-0.
What’s at stake: Vanderbilt can beat a team with a winning record and notch program’s first nine-win season since 1915. The Commodores come in with a six-game winning streak that is longest in Southeastern Conference going into bowl season. N.C. State can make up for a season that cost coach Tom O’Brien his job by winning its third straight bowl and sixth in seven bowls.
Key matchup: Wolfpack QB Mike Glennon and WRs Quintin Payton and Bryan Underwood against Vanderbilt’s defense. They are why N.C. State ranks 20th nationally, averaging 304 yards. Vanderbilt features the nation’s fifth stingiest pass efficiency defense and ranks 10th in the country by holding opponents to 175.8 yards per game with a secondary led by Andre Hal and Trey Wilson.
Players to watch: N.C. State — Glennon is considered one of the top quarterbacks available in the NFL draft. The 6-foot-6 Glennon is the only quarterback from the Atlantic Coast Conference to have all his team’s yards passing this season and one of only three in the BCS. He is 295 of 511 for 3,648 yards with 30 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He was sacked 36 times. Vanderbilt — QB Jordan Rodgers. The younger brother of Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, he was benched a year ago in a Liberty Bowl loss. He rallied for his senior season by completing 59.5 percent of his passes and averaged 221 yards per game with 13 TDs and only five interceptions.
Who: Southern California (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech (6-7).
Time & TV: 2 p.m., CBS.
Where: Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso, Texas.
Line: USC by 7 1/2.
Series record: USC leads 2-1.
What’s at stake: For a team coming off a two-year bowl ban and which entered the season ranked No. 1, the Sun Bowl is a consolation prize for USC. And it will have to play without QB Matt Barkley, who is out with a shoulder injury. But as much as the Trojans want to get a win, Georgia Tech may actually be the more desperate team. The Yellow Jackets are bowl eligible for the 16th consecutive season (the fourth-longest such streak in the country), but they’ve lost their last seven bowl games, including a 30-27 overtime loss to Utah in last year’s Sun Bowl.
Key matchup: USC QB Max Wittek vs. Georgia Tech’s defense. Wittek has a lot of weapons at his disposal and has had extra time to prepare for Georgia Tech’s No. 53-ranked defense, but he’ll be making just his second college start.
Players to watch: USC — WR Marqise Lee, the Pac-12 offensive player of the year and Biletnikoff Award winner who finished fourth in the Heisman voting, leads the nation in catches (95), is second in yards (1,764) and second in yards per game (147) and has 14 TD catches. WR Robert Woods, who is USC’s all-time receptions leader, has 73 catches for 813 yards and 11 TDs. Georgia Tech — QB Tevin Washington, the ACC’s all-time leader in QB rushing TDs (37), has passed for 1,764 yards and seven TDs and rushed for 638 and 19 TDs. He leads a Tech offense that is No. 4 in the nation in rushing at 323 yards per game.
Who: Iowa State (6-6) vs. Tulsa (10-3).
Time & TV: 3:30 p.m., ESPN.
Where: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, Tenn.
Line: Iowa State by 1.
Series record: Iowa State leads 2-0.
What’s at stake: Tulsa is trying to avenge a 38-23 loss at Iowa State on Sept. 1 in the season opener. The two schools also will meet at Tulsa in the fourth week of the 2013 season. A victory would give Iowa State its first winning season since 2009. The Cyclones went 5-7 in 2010 and 6-7 in 2011. Tulsa could match a school record by earning its 11th win of the season. The Golden Hurricane went 11-3 in 2008.
Key matchup: Iowa State QB Sam Richardson vs. Tulsa defense. After throwing seven touchdown passes without an interception and rushing for a combined 162 yards over Iowa State’s final two regular-season games, Richardson is expected to make his second career start in the Liberty Bowl. Richardson gave Iowa State’s offense a spark late in the season, but he will be facing a Tulsa defense that set school records in sacks (48) and tackles for loss (104) this season.
Players to watch: Iowa State — LB A.J. Klein: This 6-foot-2 senior was the Big 12’s co-defensive player of the year in 2011 and earned first-team all-conference honors this season. Klein has recorded 342 career tackles to rank 16th among active Football Bowl Subdivision players nationwide. He has a team-high 98 tackles this season. Klein has scored on four career interception returns. Tulsa — RBs Trey Watts, Ja’Terian Douglas and Alex Singleton: They have each run for at least 750 yards while helping give Tulsa the nation’s 11th-ranked rushing offense. Watts is the Golden Hurricane’s leading rusher with 959 yards on 161 carries. Douglas has run for 857 yards and seven touchdowns on 129 attempts. Singleton has run for 765 yards and 21 touchdowns on 187 carries. He has a school-record 40 career touchdown runs.
Who: No. 9 LSU (10-2) vs. No. 14 Clemson (10-2).
Time & TV: 7:30 p.m., ESPN.
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta.
Line: LSU by 6.
Series record: LSU leads 2-0.
What’s at stake: Clemson is trying to reach 11 wins for only the fourth time in school history and the first time since a 12-0 finish in its 1981 national championship season. LSU, which one year ago was preparing for the national championship game, is hoping for a top-five finish and to close with four straight wins after its 21-17 loss to Alabama on Nov. 3.
Key matchup: LSU freshman cornerbacks Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins, who have had prominent roles since the dismissal of Tyrann Mathieu before the season, will be challenged to contain DeAndre Hopkins, who is second in the nation with 16 TD catches, and Sammy Watkins. Mills, the starter, and Collins, who plays on passing downs, have combined for four interceptions. LSU QB Tajh Boyd has 34 TD passes, taking advantage of his fast receivers.
Players to watch: LSU — LB Kevin Minter, a second-team All-American who leads the Tigers with 111 tackles, will be a key to LSU’s hopes of containing 1,000-yard rusher Andre Ellington and Boyd’s runs on QB keepers to make Clemson’s offense one-dimensional. Minter had 12 tackles and an interception in LSU’s 24-19 win over Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M on Oct. 20. Clemson — Watkins has only three TD catches, a big drop from his 12 as a freshman last season. He could be ready for a strong finish after missing three games early in the season — two to a suspension and one to illness. He had 11 catches for 110 yards and a touchdown against N.C. State on Nov. 17 and could have another big game if LSU leaves him in man coverage while focusing on Hopkins.