Vanderbilt will be making its second-ever appearance in the Music City Bowl. In 2008 the Commodores defeated Boston College by a score of 16-14 for the school’s first bowl win in over 50 years.
The Music City Bowl is one of the newest bowl games, existing only since 1998. The inaugural game was played in Vanderbilt Stadium, with Virginia Tech beating Alabama. LP Field has hosted the game since 1999. Originally, the game matched up teams from the Southeastern Conference and the Big East, but in 2002 it replaced the Big East with a Big Ten team. Since 2006, the game has featured an SEC team and an ACC team.
The Music City Bowl has seen two specialists win the MVP award for the game: Vanderbilt punter Brett Upson in 2008 and Minnesota kicker Dan Nystrom in 2002. Other notable MVPs have been Minnesota running back Marion Barben, Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell, Clemson running back C.J. Spiller and Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson, who won the award in back-to-back years.
Upson won his award in 2008 on the legs of a strong punting performance where he averaged 42.6 yards per kick on nine attempts. Boston College fumbled one of his punts that Vanderbilt linebacker Sean Richardson recovered in the end zone for the Commodores only touchdown of the game. Kicker Bryant Hahnfeldt, a Nashville native also had a strong game in the Vanderbilt win, hitting field goals of 42, 26 and 45 yards.
The Commodores needed strong special teams performances, as the offense struggled mightily behind freshman quarterback Larry Smith. Vanderbilt totaled just 200 yards of offense and eight first downs, compared to Boston College’s 331 yards and 17 first downs. Smith and the Commodore offense only managed to convert 1 of 15 3rd down attempts.
The defense, led by current NFL players Myron Lewis and D.J. Moore, forced three turnovers and only allowed Boston College quarterback Dominique Davis to complete 15 of his 36 pass attempts.
The Music City Bowl is noted for a litany of upsets that have happened at LP Field, as only five favored teams have emerged victorious in the bowl’s 14-year history. Vanderbilt is expected to be favored over N.C. State this year. The largest upset in Music City Bowl history came in 2006 when Kentucky upset Clemson, which was favored by 10 points.
Another reason the Music City Bowl gained infamy is for the NCAA implementation of the “Dooley Rule” following the 2010 game where North Carolina beat Tennessee and head coach Derek Dooley in 2010. The rule, which assesses a 10-second penalty to a team committing a penalty that stops the clock in the final minute of a half, was implemented after the wild finish to the fourth quarter in that game. North Carolina, then trailing 20-17, drove to the Tennessee 25 yard-line with less than 10 seconds left and attempted to rush its field goal unit onto the field while quarterback T.J. Yates and the offense attempted to spike the ball. A video review showed that UNC had 17 players on the field when the ball was spiked. The referees did not think that North Carolina had spiked the ball in time, and ruled that the game was over. The two head coaches shook hands at mid-field while Tennessee players celebrated. Then, the video booth reviewed the play and determined that North Carolina had actually spiked the ball with one second left, allowing the Tar Heels to kick a tying field goal and ultimately prevail in double overtime.