Liberty Bowl Predictions: Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Vanderbilt Commodores

Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Vanderbilt Commodores
Saturday, 12/31/11, 3:30 PM EST, TV:  ABC
Opening Point Spread:  Vanderbilt -1.5
Current Betting Line:  Vanderbilt PK
Opening Total:  49.5
Current Total:  49
Odds Courtesy of Bookmaker

Cincinnati Bearcats QB Zach Collaros expects to play in the Liberty Bowl Saturday

Cincinnati is set to play in the 53rd AutoZone Liberty Bowl on Saturday and will look to improve upon the school’s 6-6 all-time postseason record.  The Bearcats will be meeting the Commodores for the eighth time, looking to snap a three-game losing streak in the series, but the last such contest occurred in 1994.  All eyes will be fixed on quarterback Zach Collaros, who is listed a probable with an ankle injury that was suffered earlier in the year.  “I didn’t feel I was going to be able to heal this fast,” stated Collaros.  Cincinnati is 4-8 ATS as an underdog the past two-plus seasons.

The Bearcats really get after the quarterback, leading all of college football in averaging 3.58 sacks per game, registering 40 over the final 10 games.  Turnovers will also play an important part in determining the winner of this contest, as Cincinnati sits 11th nationally with a +11 turnover margin.  Collaros finished the regular season in second place in pass efficiency rating in the Big East Conference and he’ll be handing the ball off to Isaiah Pead.  He was one of just three 1,000-yard rushers in the conference.

Vanderbilt finished the regular season with an even 6-6 record and many see it as a major success for first-year head coach James Franklin.  The Commodores showed a four-game improvement from a season ago, scoring 26.9 points per game and allowing just 20.8.  Defense is definitely the name of the game for this program, ranking 19th in the country in allowing just 324.6 yards per game.  Since midseason, the offense has become more of a fixture of discussion, averaging 31.5 points over the final seven games.  Vanderbilt is 0-2 ATS when playing with two weeks or more of rest.

The Commodores are definitely going to present a challenge to the Bearcats passing attack, ranking 12th with 17 interceptions.  It’s important to note that Vanderbilt earned its first undefeated campaign in non-Southeastern Conference play in 12 years, posting a 4-0 record in those contests.  Junior running back Zac Stacy is the player to watch, breaking the program’s single-season rushing record with 1,136 rushing yards.

Bettors will likely back the Commodores due to their 6-1 ATS mark in their last seven games, while the Bearcats are 0-4 ATS in bowl games.

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