Doeren's crew confronts SEC counterpart

Doeren's crew confronts SEC counterpart

Vanderbilt required two straight upsets at the tail end of November just to merely gain bowl eligibility. But can Derek Mason’s program inflict some further damage in Shreveport this afternoon?

Back in the postseason for the first time since 2003, the Commodores meet North Carolina State in the Independence Bowl at 5 p.m. ET. Online sports book BetDSI opened Dave Doeren’s team as a 3.5-point favorite over Vandy. The over/under is set at 45.

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Despite leading the FBS in red-zone defense, Vanderbilt (6-6) frequently struggled against SEC foes. That all changed, though, when Ole Miss and Tennessee showed up on the schedule. The Commodores scored a combined 83 points in the victories over the Rebels and Volunteers to conclude the regular campaign.

Not surprisingly, Ralph Webb was a major reason for said surge. Having already established the school record for career rushing yards with 3,281, the junior needs only 22 more to break Vandy’s single-year mark. He’s joined in the backfield by sophomore trigger man Kyle Shurmur, who threw four touchdowns over the past two contests.

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Of course, NC State’s (6-6) by no means short on talent at the offensive skill positions, either. Senior tailback Matt Dayes boasts 1,119 yards rushing and 10 scores on 240 carries. He’s a threat in the passing game, too, with 31 receptions on numerous targets.

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At the end of the day, the Wolfpack’s O-line probably doesn’t get enough credit for its ability to keep quarterback Ryan Finley upright. Doeren’s squad gave up 17 sacks in 12 affairs, after allowing a whopping 39 last fall. Still, Mason’s indefatigable D figures to cause a fair amount of disruption. Add the potential for tempestuous weather in Louisiana, and a low-scoring struggle seems likely.

MONDAY NCAA PICK: VANDERBILT/NC STATE UNDER 45 POINTS

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