College Football Handicapping Picks BBVA Compass Bowl: Houston Cougars vs Vanderbilt Commodores

2014 BBVA Compass Bowl
Houston Cougars vs Vanderbilt Commodores

Legion Field – Birmingham, Alabama 
Saturday, January 4, 2013, 1:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Opening Line: Vanderbilt -2
Current Line: Vanderbilt -2 1/2
Opening Total: 54 1/2
Current Total: 53
Opening Money Line: Vanderbilt -150 / Houston +130
Current Money Line: Vanderbilt -135 / Houston +115

Vanderbilt is a slight favorite over Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham Saturday.
Vanderbilt is a slight favorite over Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham Saturday.

The 8-4 Vanderbilt Commodores and 8-4 Houston Cougars meet for the first time ever Saturday in the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Alabama. Vanderbilt went 4-4 in the SEC East and finished fourth in the division. Houston went 5-3 in the American Athletic Conference (formerly the Big East) and finished fourth in their first year in the conference.

Houston is 9-11-1 all-time in bowl games. The Cougars missed out on a bowl last season, but beat Penn State 30-14 in the 2012 Ticket City Bowl in Dallas. Houston has gone 2-9 in their last 11 bowl games. The Cougars had played four straight bowl games in the state of Texas  before this season. Houston is 1-1 all-time in bowl games against the SEC beating Auburn in the 1969 Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston and losing to South Carolina in the 2006 Liberty Bowl in Memphis.

Vanderbilt is playing in a third straight bowl game for the first time in program history. The Commodores have only played in six bowl games period, with a 3-2-1 record. Vanderbilt beat North Carolina State 38-24 in the Music City Bowl last year in Nashville. The Commodores lost to Cincinnati 31-24 in the 2011 Liberty Bowl. It was the only bowl game against a current AAC team.

Houston is coached by Tony Levine. The Cougars started off the season 7-1, but went 1-3 down the stretch. Houston has home wins over Southern 62-13, Rice 31-26 (in Reliant Stadium), Memphis 25-15, South Florida 35-23, and SMU 34-0 to close out the regular season, along with road wins at Temple 22-13, UTSA 59-28, and Rutgers 49-14. THe SMU win snapped a three game losing streak for Houston. The Cougars have home losses to BYU 47-46 and Cincinnati 24-17, along with road losses at UCF 19-14 and Louisville 20-13. All four losses were to teams with at least 8 wins and by 7 points or less. Houston is 10-2 ATS and the total is 5-7 this season. The Cougars were 8.5 point favorites at  SMU and the total was 63.5.

Houston is outscoring teams 34-20 this season. The Cougars are #13 in points allowed and #33 in scoring nationally out of 125 FBS teams. Houston is averaging 422.5 total yards per game including 284.1 passing and 138.4 rushing yards. The Cougars are #23 in passing offense and #95 in rushing nationally. On defense, Houston is allowing 420 yards per game including 276.2 passing and 143.8 rushing yards per game. The Cougars are #85 in total offense, #116 against the pass, and #37 in rush defense nationally.  Houston is +25 in turnovers with 40 takeaways. The Cougars are averaging 67 penalty yards per game, and opponents are averaging 73. Houston is 70/188 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 84/220. The Cougars are 46/55 scoring in the red zone with 32 touchdowns and opponents are 33/45 with 22 touchdowns. Houston has forced 30 sacks and allowed 25 this season. The Cougars have 4 defensive touchdowns and a kickoff return for a touchdown and has allowed one fumble return for a touchdown.

Houston quarterback. John O’Korn has completed 59.9% of his passes for 2,889 yards with 26 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, and also has 66 rushing yards on 70 carries with a touchdown. Back-up Greg Ward, Jr. has thrown for 300 yards with a touchdown, and also has 40 carries for 179 yards and 2 touchdowns. David Piland  has thrown for 220 yards and a touchdown, along with 5 carries for 31 yards. He is out for the season with a concussion.

Running back Ryan Jackson has 137 carries, 655 yards and 6 touchdowns, along with 25 catches for 270 yards and 2 touchdowns. Kenneth Farrow has 95 carries for 486 yards and 5 touchdowns, along with 24 catches for 113 yards and a touchdown. Justin Hicks has 21 carries for 95 yards and a touchdown, along with a catch for 8 yards.

Receiver Deontay Greenberry has 76 catches, 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns. He is probable with a leg injury. Daniel Spencer has 50 catches, 764 yards and 6 touchdowns, along with 7 carries for 69 yards and a touchdown. Xavier Maxwell has 28 catches for 405 yards and 4 touchdowns. Demarcus Ayers has a receiving touchdown and a kick return for a touchdown. Receiver Shane Ros is out for the season.

Vanderbilt is coached by James Franklin. Franklin has been mentioned as a candidate for both the Texas and Penn State jobs that are open. The Commodores have home wins over Austin Peay 38-3, UAB 52-24, Georgia 31-27, Kentucky 22-6, and Wake Forest 23-21, along with road wins at Massachusetts 24-7, Florida 34-17 and Tennessee 14-10. Vandy has won four straight games. Vanderbilt has home losses to Ole Miss 39-35 and Missouri 51-28, along with road losses at South Carolina 35-25 and Texas A&M 51-28. The Commodores are 6-6 ATS and the total is 7-5 this season. Vanderbilt was a 14 point favorite against Wake Forest and the total was 42.5.

Vanderbilt is outscoring teams 29-25. The Commodores are averaging 366.7 yards per game including 233.7 passing and 133 rushing yards. Vanderbilt is #94 in total offense and #99 in rushing offense. On defense, the Commodores are allowing 352.3 total yards including 204.3 passing and 148 rushing yards. Vandy is #24 in total offense, #21 in pass defense, and #43 in rush defense.  Vanderbilt is +7 in turnovers with 27 takeaways. The Commodores average 42 penalty yards per game and opponents average 48. Vanderbilt is 79/192 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 80/190. The Commodores have forced 24 sacks and allowed 32 this season. Vanderbilt is 46/52 scoring in the red zone with 35 touchdowns, and opponents are  37/42 with 27 touchdowns. The Commodores have allowed 3 pick sixes this season.

Vanderbilt quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels is out for the season with a torn ACL. He gutted out the last three games of the season on the knee.  He had completed 68.7% of his passes for 2,268 yards with 11 touchdowns and 9 interceptions, along with 75 carries for 115 yards and 5 touchdowns. Patton Robinette started 2 games earlier in the season. He has thrown for 488 yards with 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, along with 56 carries for 177 yards and 6 touchdowns. Another back-up quarterback Johnny McCrary is questionable with a knee injury but hasn’t taken a snap this season. Josh Grady is out for the season and has thrown 2 interceptions this season.

Running back Jerron Seymour has 144 carries for 627 yards and 13 touchdowns, along with 19 catches for 126 yards. Wesley Tate has 87 carries, 354 yards and 4 touchdowns, along with 18 catches for 149 yards and a touchdown. Brian Kimbrow has 68 carries, 266 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with 5 catches. Fullback Fitz Lassing has 2 receiving touchdowns.

Receiver Jordan Matthews has 107 catches for 1,334 yards and 5 touchdowns, along with 46 rushing yards. Jonathan Krause has 41 catches, 703 yards and 3 touchdowns, plus 11 rushing yards. Jordan Cunningham has 15 catches for 123 yards. Little used tight end Dillon van der Wal  is probable with a leg injury.Three defensive players and two offensive linemen are listed on the injury report.

Vanderbilt is 4-0 ATS after failing to cover, 10-3 after a straight up win, 6-2 after allowing less than 275 total yardsa nd 175 passing yards.

Houston is 6-0 ATS in non-conference games, 6-1 after allowing less than 100 rushing yards, 12-2 overall, 5-1 in neutral site games and after allowing 20 points or less, 4-1 against teams with winning records and on fieldturf, 11-3 after a straight up win of 20 points or more, 16-5 after a straight up win and a cover, and 5-2 against SEC teams.

Houston gives up a ton of yards, but they are #13th in points allowed. This is mainly because they lead the nation in both turnovers forced and turnover margin. Vanderbilt usually takes care of the ball pretty well. The loss of Carta-Samuels hurts but Robinette has proven to be a capable back-up. Having one of the best receivers in the country in Matthews doesn’t hurt either. I like Vanderbilt to win a close low scoring game.

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