Boston College (9-4) vs. Vanderbilt (6-6)|
Wednesday, December 31st, 3:30 p.m. (et)
From The Sports Network
By Ralph Lauro, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The Vanderbilt Commodores are set to make their first bowl
appearance in 26 years, as they take on the Boston College Eagles in the 2008
Music City Bowl in Nashville.
It wasn't pretty, but the Commodores were able to sneak their way into a bowl
game for just the fourth time in school history and the first since losing to
Air Force in the 1982 Hall of Fame Bowl.
"I'm excited, our staff is excited and our players are excited about getting a
chance to experience a bowl game," head coach Bobby Johnson said. "Getting to
play in the Gaylord Music City Bowl is a fantastic reward for this football
team and Vanderbilt University."
Vanderbilt, coming off 25 straight losing campaigns, appeared to be a lock for
the postseason following a 5-0 start to the season. Things, however, didn't
exactly go according to plan, as the team won just one of its final seven
games to finish the regular-season at 6-6. Despite the poor finish, the
Commodores have a chance to win their second-ever postseason game and their
first since defeating Auburn in the 1955 Gator Bowl.
As for BC, it used to four-game win streaks down the stretch to help it reach
the ACC title game for a second straight season. Like last season, though, the
Eagles were denied a spot in a BCS game by Virginia Tech, dropping a 30-12
decision to the Hokies in the championship game. Despite the loss, BC still
posted a solid 9-4 mark during the regular-season and is set to make its
school-record 10th consecutive bowl game appearance.
"I'm very proud of what this team has accomplished this year," head coach Jeff
Jagodzinski said. "As I said last week, nobody outside our locker room
expected them to accomplish what they did. We're looking forward to playing
Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl. Nashville is a great city, and I'm sure
we'll have a very good time."
BC owns a 13-6 mark in postseason games and is are riding the nation's longest
bowl winning streak at eight games.
The Eagles and Commodores have met twice, in 1962 and 1963, with BC winning
both of those encounters.
Offensively, BC has struggled to replace quarterback Matt Ryan, who has
flourished as a rookie in the NFL after being selected third overall by the
Atlanta Falcons in the 2008 draft. Chris Crane took over for Ryan this season
and he had his up and downs, throwing for 10 touchdowns and rushing for seven,
while being intercepted 13 times. The senior gun-slinger, unfortunately, broke
his collarbone against Wake Forest on November 22nd, ending his season.
Freshman Dominique Davis moved into a starting role for Crane and led the
Eagles to two narrow wins before committing three turnovers in a loss to
Virginia Tech in the ACC title game. In five appearances this season, Davis
has completed only 47.1 percent of his pass attempts for 551 yards, with four
touchdowns and two picks. Rich Gunnell and Brandon Robinson are the team's top
two threats in the passing game and they have combined for 88 catches, 1,157
yards and seven scores. In the backfield, BC is paced by a true freshman in
Montel Harris, who has gained 832 yards and five scores in 12 games.
On the defensive side of the ball is where the Eagles have really excelled
this season, holding opponent to just 18.5 ppg and a mere 273.4 total ypg. The
unit has done a tremendous job against the run, limiting foes to only 92.2 ypg
and meager 2.9 yards per carry. BC's pass defense has been every bit as good
and the team leads the nation in interceptions, with 26. Five of those picks
have also been returned for touchdowns and that is something to keep an eye
out for in this game. Paul Anderson and Mark Herzlich are tied for the team-
lead with six picks apiece, and Herzlich also leads the squad with 105
tackles. B.J. Raji has been a force on the line for BC and he has accounted
for seven of the team's 34 sacks.
The Commodores haven't had much success on offense this season, as they are
scoring only 19.4 ppg on a dismal 260.9 total ypg. The team, tough, has been
able to grind out some yards on the ground, averaging 138.2 ppg. Tailback
Jared Hawkins leads the team with 580 yards on the ground, but he is listed as
questionable with an ankle injury. Quarterback Chris Nickson has also played a
part in the squad's ground game, as he has rushed for 485 yards and a team-
high six touchdowns. Nickson, however, hasn't done much with his arm, throwing
for only 545 yards, with eight scores and three picks. Mackenzi Adams is
another option for Vanderbilt and he has thrown for 882 yards, but with five
touchdowns and only eight picks. It is uncertain who will start this game, but
is unlikely either will have much success against BC's stout defense.
Vanderbilt has tried its best to compensate for its offensive woes by playing
solid defense and for the most part, it has succeeded. The Commodores are
giving up only 20.1 ppg and 318.7 total ypg and they have forced 27 turnovers,
including 18 interceptions. The defense has had good success bringing down
opposing quarterbacks as well, registering 29 sacks on the season. Leading the
charge for this unit is Patrick Benoist, who has 100 tackles on the season.
Ryan Hamilton is another good player, with 98 stops and three picks to his
credit, and keep an eye out for D.J. Moore, the team's leader in interceptions
This is set up to be a defensive battle, so turnovers and field position will
play a big part. The Eagles appear to have the better defense of the two
teams and that unit should help them emerge with the victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Boston College 20, Vanderbilt 10
12/28 03:40:58 ET