Allstate Sugar Bowl Looks at Big 12-SEC 2015The Allstate Sugar Bowl secured its future through January 2026 with the announcement that it would host the champions of the Southeastern and Big 12 Conferences in eight of the 12 years between 2014 and 2025. If the champion of either or both leagues is selected for the College Football Playoff, a replacement team from that conference will play in the Sugar Bowl. In the four seasons that the Sugar Bowl is not hosting the Big 12 and the SEC (2014, 2017, 2020, 2023), it will serve as a College Football Playoff Semifinal.
After last year’s Playoff Semifinal game, this year’s Allstate Sugar Bowl will be the first as the official destination for the top available teams from the Big 12 and the SEC. To lead into the season, the Bowl is providing brief previews of each team in the leagues.
Vanderbilt2014 Record: 3-9 (0-8, seventh in the SEC East)
Ralph Webb (So., RB): 212 carries for 912 yards, 4 TDs
Johnny McCrary (So., QB): 78-of-152 for 985 yards, 9 TDs, 8 INT
Steven Scheu (Sr., TE): 39 catches for 525 yards, 4 TDs
C.J. Duncan (So., WR): 28 catches for 441 yards, 4 TDs
Stephen Weatherly (Jr., LB): 55 tackles, 8 TFL, 5.5 sacks
Nigel Bowden (So., LB): team-best 78 tackles
Zach Cunningham (So., LB): 67 tackles, 5 TFL
The Commodores played 31 freshmen last season, the most of any team in the FBS. They also have 18 starters returning meaning this will be a much more experienced team in 2015 for coach Derek Mason’s second season. Ten of the projected starters on the team are sophomores.
Key Early Games
Sept. 5 vs. Western Kentucky (6 p.m. CT, SEC Network): The first chance to see if this more experienced Vanderbilt team is also much improved will be in the season opener against a Western Kentucky squad led by Brandon Doughty, one of the top quarterbacks in the nation. Vandy turned the ball over seven times in its opener last season, losing 37-7 to Temple.
Sept. 12 vs. Georgia (1:30 p.m. CT, CBS): Vanderbilt has only defeated Georgia five teams in 51 meetings but it did upset the Bulldogs in their last meeting in Nashville – 31-27 in 2013 (a Vandy team that finished 9-4).
Caleb Azubike could be a key to Vanderbilt’s defense in 2015. The 6-4, 270-pounder Split time at linebacker and defensive end last season, but is expected to be full-time on the line this year – a position from which he tallied eight sacks and 14 tackles for loss during his first two seasons. Azubike is a Nashville product who put up huge numbers at McGavock High (117 tackles, 30 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and six forced fumbles as a senior). Recognized by some as one of the more underrated athletes in the SEC, Azubike could contend for all-conference recognition as a senior. “I moved Caleb to outside ‘backer a year ago, and really in the 3-4 structure, he’s not an outside ‘backer. What he is is a 5-technique,” head coach Derek Mason said. “But I do know this, now understanding a year later who he is and what we are defensively, it allows me to get him more one-on-one matchups. So I’m excited about what he is and where he is. This guy can have a tremendous year as an end.”
Vanderbilt has created a series of high-quality “pump-up” videos to count down the days until the 2015 football season, the videos began with “50 Days,” followed by “40 Days” and “30 Days.” Here is the most recent: “20 Days.”
Vanderbilt is one of three SEC schools that have never played in the Sugar Bowl. However, the Commodores do have a strong New Orleans connection in receivers coach Cortez Hankton, who was a star athlete at St. Augustine High School in the late 1990s. He went on to star at Texas Southern and then played professionally for nine years before joining the coaching ranks at Dartmouth College. After three years in New Hampshire, he was hired by Derek Mason last season.
Cornerbacks coach Brett Maxie is also no stranger to New Orleans as he played for nine seasons (1985-93) with the Saints.