NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Vanderbilt will only have to travel a few miles from campus for its bowl game, and the Southeastern Conference program that finally needs a second hand to count its postseason games couldn’t be happier.
The Commodores (8-4) will face North Carolina State (7-5) in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 31 at LP Field in a game matching a coach who just signed a contract extension against an interim coach from the Atlantic Coast Conference. This also will be the Commodores’ third straight bowl inside the state of Tennessee and second Music City Bowl game since 2008.
“We just love the opportunity to play in the postseason,” Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers said.
“That’s something we don’t take for granted around here at Vanderbilt. It’s something we’re going to be doing a lot more in the future,” Rodgers said. “But this is a great opportunity to play a different conference, to play on New Year’s Eve. It’s going to be a day game I believe so we’ll have New Year’s Eve to hang out with all our fans here in Nashville.”
This will be just the sixth bowl game for Vanderbilt, and coach James Franklin had his new contract announced earlier Sunday night for taking the Commodores to consecutive bowl games for the first time in school history. They bring a six-game winning streak into this bowl sponsored by Franklin American Mortgage.
Franklin calls this bowl a great opportunity to stake their claim as Nashville’s team.
“The numbers I threw out of being able to sell 55,000 or so tickets to this game I truly believe we can do that,” Franklin said. “I don’t believe that’s a reach. I believe that’s a realistic thing we can do and make this the best Music City Bowl that’s been played here. I’m excited about it. I think it makes a lot of sense in a lot of different ways, and we’re proud to represent the SEC in the Music City Bowl.”
North Carolina State offensive coordinator Dana Bible will serve as the Wolfpack’s interim head coach in place of Tom O’Brien, who was fired last weekend. The Wolfpack introduced new coach Dave Doeren at a news conference Sunday, but Bible will be in charge of the team for the bowl.
The Wolfpack will be playing in its 27th postseason game and are one of only 12 teams to win back-to-back bowls.
“Nashville is a unique city with a tradition all its own,” N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow said in a statement. “The Wolfpack will enjoy becoming familiar with it and appreciate its charm.”
The Commodores beat Boston College 16-14 in 2008, their first bowl win in 53 wins. Linebacker Archibald Barnes, a fifth-year senior, was a redshirt that year. He couldn’t stop smiling looking over a room that had been filled with Vandy fans while school officials stayed busy selling T-shirts and taking ticket orders.
“The seniors who were here for the last Music City Bowl, we’re excited,” Barnes said. “We get to end where we started. It’s kind of like a legacy, like we did the older guys proud by being able to get back to the Music City Bowl. We’re honored to play in Nashville. We love it here, and that’s why we’re here.”