SEC: Mike Glennon

Vanderbilt bowl X factor

December, 31, 2012
12/31/12
10:00
AM ET
Before the SEC finally gets its bowl games underway, we're going to take a look at key players in each bowl matchup. Since Vanderbilt starts things off against NC State in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl at noon ET, we'll begin with the Commodores:

X FACTOR

Walker May, RJr., DE: One thing that NC State's offense can do is throw the ball around. Thanks to the arm of senior quarterback Mike Glennon, the Wolfpack are averaging 304 passing yards per game, which ranks second in the ACC. The Commodores have been excellent against the pass, ranking ninth nationally in pass defense. But if Glennon gets time, he can make sure his receivers make plays here and there. He's expected to be one of the first QBs taken in April's NFL draft, after leading the ACC with 3,648 passing yards and finishing second with 30 touchdowns. But when the pressure comes, Glennon has a tendency to get happy feet in the pocket and hurry passes. That's where May comes in. He's a quality pass-rusher, and if he can put some pressure on Glennon, he could create some good opportunities for Vandy's talented secondary. The Commodores haven't intercepted a ton of passes this season, but allowed only four teams to pass for 200-plus yards on them this season. The more disruptive May is, the more chances Glennon has of making mistakes. May has 10.5 tackles for loss, including three sacks, and has defended two passes. Getting Glennon out of rhythm will help the Commodores continue their success against the pass.

Vanderbilt keys for Music City Bowl

December, 31, 2012
12/31/12
9:30
AM ET
Here’s a look at three keys for Vanderbilt in Monday’s matchup with North Carolina State in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl:

1. Winning the turnover battle: One of the remarkable things about Vanderbilt’s six-game winning streak heading into the bowl game is that the Commodores were minus-4 in turnover margin during those six wins. And in four of those games, the Commodores lost the turnover battle. That’s what you call playing with fire. They can’t afford to turn the ball over against North Carolina State, especially with the Wolfpack ranked No. 20 nationally in passing offense (304 yards per game) and capable of scoring points in bunches. Moreover, N.C. State has had its own problems in the turnover department. The team has committed 21 of its 28 turnovers this season in its five losses.

2. Pressuring Glennon: N.C. State’s Mike Glennon is 12th nationally in passing and ranked by ESPN’s Mel Kiper as the No. 3 senior quarterback in the 2013 draft. Glennon has passed for 3,648 yards with 30 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Getting to him early and forcing some errant throws will be important for the Commodores, who are ranked 10th nationally in passing defense. They’ve only given up 6 touchdown passes in 12 games, but Glennon is probably the best passer they’ve faced this season.

3. Running to glory: Vanderbilt senior running back Zac Stacy has put together back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons. When he’s going good, so are the Commodores. They’re averaging 170.4 yards per game on the ground, and stopping the run hasn’t been the Wolfpack’s strong suit. They’ve allowed more than 200 yards rushing in seven games this season. Establishing the run will help keep Glennon and the N.C. State passing game off the field, and Vanderbilt also doesn’t want to be in a lot of third-down situations. The Wolfpack are first nationally in third-down conversion defense, allowing opponents to convert just 27.2 percent of the time. The Commodores, meanwhile, are 100th nationally in converting third downs (34.5 percent).

Pregame: Music City Bowl

December, 31, 2012
12/31/12
9:12
AM ET
NC State (7-5, 4-4 ACC) vs. Vanderbilt (8-4, 5-3 SEC)

WHO TO WATCH: NC State quarterback Mike Glennon. He is a legitimate pro prospect who finished first in the ACC in passing yards per game (304) and second in total offense (292 yards per game). He was clutch in the fourth quarter of a dramatic upset of then-No. 3 Florida State during the regular season. He threw for 30 touchdowns this season and 14 interceptions. Vandy’s defense, though, has allowed just six passing touchdowns and an average of 175.8 passing yards to rank in the top 10 nationally in each category.

WHAT TO WATCH: NC State’s rushing defense against Vanderbilt running back Zac Stacy. In conference play, All-SEC running back and school career rushing leader Stacy finished fifth in the league with 1,034 rushing yards. The Commodores ranked 53rd nationally with an average of 170.4 rushing yards per game. NC State’s rushing defense has been average this year, allowing 157.9 yards per game.

WHY TO WATCH: Vandy is on a hot streak under second-year coach James Franklin. The Commodores are riding a six-game winning streak, the program’s longest in three decades, and this is the first time in school history that Vanderbilt will make back-to-back postseason appearances. A win in the Music City Bowl would equal the team’s single-season record of nine victories, set in 1904 and matched in 1915. For NC State, it’s the last game with the Wolfpack for offensive coordinator/interim coach Dana Bible, who replaced good friend Tom O’Brien. O’Brien was fired at the end of the season and replaced by Dave Doeren of Northern Illinois.

PREDICTION: Vanderbilt 24, NC State 17: The Commodores’ defense will be the difference. Vanderbilt ranks No. 17 in the country in total defense, No. 15 in points allowed and No. 10 in passing defense. Vandy will fluster Glennon into making some mistakes, and a turnover or two will be the difference.

SEC lunch links

December, 26, 2012
12/26/12
1:06
PM ET
Hope everyone had a great Christmas. Before you hit the malls to return those gifts, let's hit the links:

Tennessee finds toughness and depth

September, 1, 2012
9/01/12
1:50
AM ET


ATLANTA -- By the time the first quarter finally came to an end Friday night, Derek Dooley thought it was halftime.

The quarter, which lasted more than an hour and a half, was that long and that exhausting for Tennessee’s coach.

That type of fatigue from a coach usually means his team is just as tired, or worse. But not Friday.

For a team that could barely make it through a full game in 2011, Tennessee pushed through like Dooley had never seen, and the Vols cruised to a 35-21 victory over NC State in Game 1 of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff inside the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

A first quarter such as Friday’s would have sent last season’s Vols into rollover mode, but this team was different. After jumping ahead 22-7 in the first quarter, Tennessee was able to hold on to and build on its lead in front of the announced crowd of 55,529.

Even when the mistakes came and NC State cut Tennessee’s lead to eight before halftime, the Vols rallied to control the second half, thanks to some grit and some much-needed depth.

“That was a good step for our team,” Dooley said. “I said this at the beginning of the year: We’re going to have to learn how to grit through four quarters of football. We’re going to be in a lot of games this year, and that was a good start. I was proud of them.”

The first quarter was full of explosive plays from the Vols and featured a stretch in which they scored 16 points in 38 seconds. But the second was sloppy. NC State rushed back with a 67-yard touchdown drive, while Tennessee punted twice and saw its final drive end with quarterback Tyler Bray fumbling at the goal line on a quarterback sneak.

You could feel the momentum shift as both teams went into the locker rooms, but Tennessee adjusted, physically and mentally.

The staff rotated bodies all night to keep guys fresh, and it showed in the second half. The offensive line saw seven to maybe eight players get in. Three running backs played, with third-teamer Marlin Lane leading all ball carriers with 75 yards, including a long of 42, on nine attempts.

Tennessee threw as many defenders as it could out on the field, not just to keep guys fresh but because it had the bodies and talent to do it. For once in Dooley’s Tennessee life, depth wasn’t an issue, and it powered the Vols in the second half.

[+] EnlargeMarlin Lane
Daniel Shirey/US PresswireMarlin Lane had nine carries for 75 yards in Tennessee's win over NC State.
Wide receiver Justin Hunter, who played in his first game since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament early last season, said he hadn’t seen a Tennessee team play like the Vols did in the second half.

“Playing for 60 minutes was a problem that we used to have in the past,” said Hunter, who caught a game-high nine passes and had 73 receiving yards. “For us to come out here in a big environment and play for 60 minutes like this, I think we did great.”

Just look at third downs. Tennessee was 3-of-9 on them in the first half but was 6-of-10 in the second. That’s how you win games and that’s how you tire out opponents.

“Rotating running backs, linemen and receivers is going to keep fresh legs,” Lane said. “With this fast-paced offense, we’re going to keep wearing defenses down. With fresh legs on the field and a tired defense, it’s going to be [some] pretty great offensive drives that we can sustain.”

It also helps when you have a thoroughbred alongside Hunter at receiver. Junior-college transfer Cordarrelle Patterson more than made up for the loss of Da’Rick Rogers by having a true breakout game. He absolutely burned All-American corner David Amerson on a bump-and-go for his first touchdown -- a 41-yarder -- and shook/sprinted past the entire Wolfpack defense on a 67-yard touchdown run.

He finished the night with 165 total yards and two touchdowns on eight touches. Quite the opening night for someone Dooley didn’t think totally grasped the playbook.

“I’m not sure he ran the right route,” Dooley said. “That’s the beauty of Bray: He don’t care; he’s gonna let it fly. That pretty much summed it up. Run the wrong route, Bray rewards him, touchdown.”

But somehow he found a way, just like the rest of Dooley’s football team Friday. And when Patterson was shut down in the second half, the Vols tried to grind it out or Bray found other targets. There always seemed to be options.

The defense did its job by abusing the Wolfpack up front, with its revamped -- and much more intimidating -- image. As the Vols pressed, NC State quarterback Mike Glennon flinched and threw his way to three second-half interceptions.

It seemed like every other play, someone else -- starter or not -- was making a big play on defense for the Vols.

Tennessee wasn’t perfect but it was solid. Now, it’s time to build off Friday’s transformation.

“It’s one game,” Dooley said. “All that matters is we’re 1-0. We have to go clean up a ton of mistakes and go on to the next week and get focused on the next week. It really doesn’t mean anything other than we won the first game.”

A flurry of explosive offensive plays in the first half and a defense that intercepted North Carolina State quarterback Mike Glennon four times steered Tennessee to a season-opening 35-21 victory on Friday in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome.

The Vols’ pass defense looked shaky early, but they regrouped and held the Wolfpack to just one touchdown in the second. Glennon was repeatedly harassed by Tennessee’s pressure, and Prentiss Waggner, Brian Randolph, Eric Gordon and Marsalis Teague all had interceptions for the Vols.

Tennessee rolled up 528 yards of total offense and won the battle up front most of the night.

It was over when: Tennessee held North Carolina State on fourth-and-9 with a little more than five minutes to play. Glennon’s pass sailed incomplete. The Vols took over at the Wolfpack 39 and moved into position for Michael Palardy's 35-yard field goal to build a two-touchdown lead with fewer than two minutes to play.

Game ball goes to: Cordarrelle Patterson showed off in his debut for the Vols. The junior college newcomer caught a 41-yard touchdown pass and also ran for a 67-yard touchdown on a reverse where he made a wicked cut across the field and then out-ran everybody, including North Carolina State All-America cornerback David Amerson, to the end zone.

Stat of the game: The Vols just missed 200 yards rushing and averaged 5.1 yards per carry after finishing 116th nationally out of 120 teams in rushing offense last season.

Star watch: Amerson, who had 13 interceptions last season for the Wolfpack, had a forgettable outing. He was beaten twice on long touchdown passes by Patterson and Zach Rogers and also couldn’t catch Patterson on his long touchdown run.

What it means for Tennessee: The Vols absolutely had to have this game, especially with Florida coming to Knoxville in two weeks. Neyland Stadium is sure to be rocking for the Gators’ visit, and this appears to be a Tennessee team that could make some noise in the East race this season.

What it means for North Carolina State: The Wolfpack have to get better up front offensively, and Glennon needs to get over this one in a hurry. After a good start, he appeared to lose his poise after making some poor throws on interceptions. The Wolfpack were forced to throw it 48 times. They’ve got to find some better balance on offense.

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