Monday, 5 PM: Independence Bowl North Carolina State vs. Vanderbilt
Two interesting 6-6 teams from major conferences meet in what amounts to a second-tier gang fight between the ACC and the SEC. The rare modern college football game that figures to be a defensive struggle, both teams have failed to find consistent success moving the ball and both feature stout defenses known for shutting down some of the better offenses in the country. The Wolfpack got off to a strong 4-1 start before a brutal stretch of schedule dealt them four straight losses and dimmed enthusiasm for Dave Doeren's improving team. But even then they had Clemson all but beaten and suffered a close loss to Florida State. There is no consensus on the matter, but I think Doeren has NC State headed in the right direction. Traditional SEC doormats Vanderbilt are as tough as they've been in years, with wins over Georgia, Tennessee, and Ole Miss. Nobody makes easy yards against them. I like a battered and bruised Wolfpack to barely stagger out of the alley on top.