Nik's Commodore Keys – Boston College

After 26 years of waiting, the Vanderbilt Commodores (6-6, 4-4 SEC) will take on the Eagles of Boston College (9-3, 5-3 ACC) in the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl at L.P. Field on New Year's Eve. The Commodores are looking to pull the upset in this game, and finish with a winning season, which would be the first one under head coach Bobby Johnson.

So, what will the Commodores need to do to avoid their third defeat this year by an ACC opponent?

Don't Play Their Game

Boston College is well known its large, physical offensive line.  If Vanderbilt wants to win this game, they will need to use their mobility and speed to get away from Boston College's size.  As Bobby Johnson said, "We don't want to give them a chance to use their size."  This means that, on offense, Vanderbilt must fire on all cylinders.  The quarterback, be it Mackenzie Adams, Chris Nickson, or Larry Smith, must get the ball off quickly and not let themselves be sacked.  Wide receivers George Smith, Sean Walker, and Justin Wheeler must be sure that they run the correct routes and get open quickly.  Vanderbilt might use the option to try to get the ball to the outside so that the defensive linemen cannot use their strength to break through the offensive line and tackle tailback Jared Hawkins in the backfield.  Hawkins must also use his speed to try to get away from the tacklers and get out into the defensive backfield.  If he can get past Boston College's linebackers and defensive line, then he will have a great chance of getting first downs and helping the offense not rely on the passing game, which has been inconsistent at best this year.

Turnover Margin and Special Teams

When Vanderbilt has won football games, it has been because they have been excellent in turnover margin and special teams.  Because this game will likely be a low scoring affair, punter Brett Upson, who is averaging over 40 yards per punt and has done a great job in placing kicks inside the 20, must continue his spectacular punts to flip field position and help out the defense, which will likely be on the field for quite a while.  Turnovers have also plagued the Commodores this year.  Through the first four games, Vanderbilt did not throw an interception.  Since that point, Vanderbilt has thrown 11 interceptions.  Vanderbilt cannot afford to commit turnovers if they are to beat Boston College.


More than anything, Vanderbilt just needs to be consistent.  They have been up and down all year.  Sometimes, it looked as though nobody could beat the Commodores, and other days the Commodores got beat by Duke and Mississippi State.  The passing game must be consistent.  It does not have to be great, but it must be decent, and no turnovers can be committed.  The running game must be consistent, and the defense can never let up.  Vanderbilt needs to limit punt and kickoff returns, which they have done at times, and they need to simply be sure that they are ready to play, but not too nervous.  Boston College has size, but if Vanderbilt will play their game, stop the run, and run the football they could certainly beat the Eagles.  The Dores will need big games from Steven Stone, Theron Kadri, who will be filling in for Broderick Steward, among others on that defensive line to slow down Boston College's big offensive line.  D.J. Moore will need to be solid in pass coverage, and freshman All-American Chris Marve will be key to stopping the run.  Vandy must use mobility to their advantage.  This matchup will favor Vanderbilt if they can spread the field, and use their mobility.  But, if Boston College succeeds in making this game a physical battle that is won in the trenches, Vanderbilt stands a very good chance of losing this game.

History and Statistics

  • Boston College is going for an NCAA Record 9 consecutive bowl wins
  • Boston College's previous appearance in the Music City Bowl was a win over Georgia
  • Vanderbilt is making their first bowl appearance since 1982 and looking for their first bowl victory since 1955
  • This is the first time that head coach Bobby Johnson has coached in a bowl game
  • Vanderbilt is 0-2 against Boston College, losing 22-27 in 1962, and 6-19 in 1963
  • Boston College head coach Jeff Jagodzinski is in his second year with the Eagles, posting a 20-6 record.  That is his only head coaching experience.
  • Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson is 86-92 all time, and 26-56 at Vanderbilt

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