Both teams arrived at the magical 6-6 mark (and 3-5 conference records) by different routes, setting up this matchup in the Camping World Independence Bowl. Vanderbilt struggled in nonconference action – dropping four of its first six games – but concluded the regular season in emphatic fashion with a 45-34 defeat of No. 17 Tennessee. North Carolina State lost five of its last seven games – including four straight from Oct. 15 to Nov. 5 – but three of those losses came to Top-25 teams. The Wolfpack fell to No. 3 Clemson in overtime and lost by four points to No. 22 Florida State at the start and end, respectively, of the four-game skid.
NC State (6-6) vs. Vanderbilt (6-6)
Dec. 26, 2016
Independence Stadium, Shreveport, La.
How to watch
Game time: 5 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN2
Live stream: You can live stream the Hawaii Bowl here.
Players to watch
Running back Matthew Dayes ranks third in the Atlantic Coast Conference with 1,119 rushing yards and is the first Wolfpack player to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season since 2002. Averaging 4.7 yards per carry and a team-high-tying 10 touchdowns (all rushing), the senior’s eight 100-yard rushing games this season are the most for a Wolfpack player since Ted Brown’s nine in 1977.
Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham was named First Team All-America linebacker by the Associated Press on Dec. 12. The redshirt junior led the Southeastern Conference in tackles with 119 – including 68 solo. Cunningham has recovered four fumbles this season, just one shy of the program record set by Reginald Calvin in 1977.
Four members of the Wolfpack were named to the 2016 All-ACC Football Team: Dayes, offensive guard Tony Adams, defensive end Bradley Chubb and tight end Jaylen Samuels.
Samuels, a tight end who leads the Wolfpack with 49 receptions, has six rushing touchdowns this season among his team-high-tying 10 total scores.
Vanderbilt junior Ralph Webb, already the program’s all-time leading rusher, is tops on the Commodores in carries (229), rushing yards (1,172) and touchdowns (12).
Chubb leads the nation with 21.0 tackles for loss, while his 9.5 sacks rank 15th nationally.
Vanderbilt is making its eighth bowl appearance in program history and fourth in the past six years.
North Carolina State has played in 29 bowl games – including 12 since 2000.
The Independence Bowl is the nation’s 11th-oldest bowl game.
The Commodores lead the all-time series, 2-0.