BIRMINGHAM, AL -
James Franklin is in his third year as head coach at Vanderbilt. In all three years, he's led the Commodores to a bowl game. He's the only Vandy coach to accomplish that in the program's history.
This time, his Commodores (8-4, 4-4 SEC) take on Houston (8-4, 5-3 American).
"Historically, Vanderbilt had been to four bowl games in a 122 years before we arrived," Franklin said. "The fact that we've been to three in a row, I'm very excited. This is a brutal conference and we still have a long ways to go."
Houston head coach Tony Levine is in his second-season with the Cougars.
"It's a little bit unique, our current student athletes, while they've been to a number of bowl games, have never been to a bowl game outside the state of Texas," Levine said.
The same could be said for the Commodores.
Vanderbilt has not played a bowl game outside the state of Tennessee under coach Fanklin's leadership.
But for Levine, a bowl trip to the Magic City is quite familiar.
His wife is from Birmingham.
"When coaches get time off and go on vacation, being in this profession almost 20 years, where you going this summer for vacation?" Levine said. "They got all these places they're heading with their family. We go to Birmingham."
Vanderbilt is one of the hottest team's in the country. The Commordores are 15-4 over their last 19 games and also own the SEC's second best record over that span; second only to Alabama.
"I can't really speak on the expectations, but I will tell you it's night and day," Franklins said. "I remember when we took over the program, Vanderbilt just came off two 2-10 seasons and won four games total in two years.
"To think what we've been able to do in a short period of time, tremendous commitment from players and administration and assistant coaches. We still have a long ways to go. Our goal is SEC Championships and National Championships."
The game will kickoff on Sat., Jan. 4 at 12:00 p.m.