Coaches talk all the time about the importance of reaching a bowl, but players understand the value as well.
"Obviously, bowl season is very important for teams to make, win that sixth game," said NC State sophomore quarterback Ryan Finley. "It's just so many extra practices not only for developing your guys but also just give them the best and more practices and some time to prepare for the bowl.
"We're just excited to have the opportunity, obviously, playing Vanderbilt, an SEC team. We're really excited about that and it's one more chance for us to go out and show them what we can do."
According to the Finley, NC State is now starting to prepare for the Commodores.
"We found out we were playing Vandy almost two weeks ago," he said. "We're still about two weeks out. So we had two weeks to self-scout and we're slowly getting to Vandy.
What does Finley know about the SEC program?
"One thing about Vandy is they won their last 2 games, which is huge," he said. "So they're feeling among them as well ... They beat out Tennessee and then they beat Ole Miss. So they're feeling really good about themselves. And they're excited to be in a bowl game too. And they're one of the best red zone defenses in the country which is an area we've kind of struggled in. So that'll be a good challenge for us and we're just excited to go out there and play with them."
As for the Wolfpack's signal-caller, he can take some time and reflect on his first season in Raleigh.
"I think I learned a lot about myself," he stated. "I think definitely some things I can take into the spring. I think I have a lot to work on. Just playing a full season, there's a lot to that and I think I learned a lot."
Statistically, Finley had a solid year. He completed 60.2% of his passes and finished the year with 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions while passing for 2,820 yards. It was one of the better seasons for a first-year starter at NC State, but he remains focused on the team.
"I didn't realize that but at the end of the day we were 6 and 6," he stated. "There's a lot of things I could've done better to make that record better. So I'm going to be critical of myself and be hard on myself and there's definitely a lot I can work on."
Vanderbilt will be the first of back-to-back matchups against SEC foes, as State opens next season against South Carolina in Charlotte. Obviously Finley isn't looking that far ahead, but he is excited about the opportunity.
"I think the SEC is just as good, but it's just another team," he said. "We're excited to play them."