When N.C. State has the ball
Rushing: Freshman Shadrach Thornton has rushed for more than 100 yards in three straight games, and four times this season, but the Wolfpack ranks 106th in rushing offense and has averaged fewer than 3.2 yards per carry for the season.
Passing: Strength on strength. N.C. State can throw the ball with senior quarterback Mike Glennon (3,648 yards, 30 touchdowns) and the Commodores rank 10th in the country in pass defense, giving up just 175.8 passing yards per game.
Still, the late emergence of senior receiver Tobais Palmer, to go with the deep threat of Bryan Underwood (10 touchdowns), favors the Wolfpack.
Edge: N.C. State
When Vanderbilt has the ball
Rushing: Senior Zac Stacy had more production in the 2011 season but he still makes the Vandy offense go. Stacy ran for 1,034 yards as a senior, with nine touchdowns. State struggled to stop the run at the end of the season.
Passing: Senior Jordan Rodgers, the younger brother of NFL star Aaron Rodgers, has been steady, especially during Vandy’s six-game winning streak. Receiver Jordan Matthews (87 catches, 1,262 yards) is one of the best in the SEC. Tennessee, Miami, UNC and Clemson torched State’s veteran secondary in Wolfpack losses this season.
The Commodores are strong across the board in the kicking game and Jonathan Krause has returned two punts this season for touchdowns. You figure given the coaching transition, the Wolfpack will do more gambling on fourth downs and in field-goal situations.
The Commodores are hot, they’ve won six straight and kept their coach, James Franklin, from bolting for greener pastures. They are also playing in their home city, which should help. N.C. State’s capable of winning, and Tom O’Brien was brilliant in bowl games, but the nature of the coaching transition doesn’t lend itself to a successful ending to the season.