Baylor vs. Vanderbilt
Academy Sports – Outdoors Texas Bowl
Time: Thursday, 8 PM CT, ESPN
Spread: VAN -4
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Vanderbilt Commodores finished its regular season 6-6, but it lost all four of its matchups this season to ranked opponents. It will play the Baylor Bears in the Academy Sports and Outdoors Texas Bowl, where Vandy is 4-point favorites according to NCAA Football oddsmakers. The game will air Thursday night at 8 PM (CT) on ESPN, and it has an over/under of 55.5 points according to 5dimes.
Vanderbilt finished its season on a strong note, winning its final two games over Mississippi and Tennessee. The Commodores still finished with 3-5 mark in SEC play, finishing in second-to-last place in the Eastern Division. Even with its mediocre .500 record, it was lucky to draw a bowl game to end its season on a redeeming note.
Vanderbilt was strong defensively this season in limiting opponents to 25.1 points per game, but its offense was not-so high powered, ranking No. 196 in the nation at 33.3 points per game. The Commodores averaged 240.2 yards via the pass and 157.6 rushing the ball per game, with a good balance but not a ton of volatility. Encouraging, however, is the fact that Vanderbilt scored 36 points or more in three of its final four games.
Commodores quarterback Kyle Shurmur was pretty strong though, all things noted. He threw for 2,844 yards at a 64 percent completion clip with a 7.7 per-pass average. Shurmur threw 23 TD passes and just six interceptions, but he suffered 20 sacks for a total loss of 158 yards.
His top receiver Kalija Lipscomb was sensational, leading the team with 886 receiving yards (he also rushed for 75 yards on the year). Lipscomb led the team with nine receiving touchdowns, while No. 2 receiver Jared Pinkney had 698 total receiving yards and seven touchdowns.
The Commodores scored 23 receiving touchdowns on the season and it had just 18 via the rush despite having a solid backfield. Balance was still a key to its offense, overall.
Vandy’s top rusher Ke’Shawn Vaughn topped the 1,000-yard mark on the season and led all rushers with over seven yards per attempt. No. 2 running back Khari Blasingame rushed for just 385 yards on his 92 attempts, managing only 4.2 yards-per-carry. Even so, Vandy averaged 4.6 yards-per-carry as a team, and Shurmur was absolutely no part of that: The quarterback rushed 35 times for a total net yardage of negative-94 yards.
Like its opponent in this game, the Baylor Bears finished the season at .500 and managed to pull a bowl game out of it. Unlike its opponent, its defense was a major problem for the Bears this year. It allowed 31.2 points per game while scoring 34.1 itself, good for a differential of just positive-2.9 points.
The Bears had a decent pass attack that generated 282.2 yards per game, and its rush was hardly poor in its own right, generating another 159.5 yards via the rush. Even so, Baylor finished No. 5 in the Big 12. Quarterback Charlie Brewer threw for 2,635 yards on the year at a 61.5 percent clip, but he suffered 30 (!) sacks for a total loss of 192 yards. Brewer also averaged just 2.3 yards-per-carry on his team-leading 117 rushing attempts. Baylor’s top three running backs, however, all generated five or more yards-per-carry with John Lovett leading the team in yardage with 546 on the season.
Baylor’s top receiver Jalen Hurd had an outstanding season, though, leading the receivers in receptions (69) and yards (956). Denzel Mims was the top end zone target with eight receiving touchdowns on the season.
Running back Trestan Ebner finished No. 3 in rushing yardage, but he was the top-receiving option out of the backfield with 26 catches for 239 yards (but no touchdowns). Expect Baylor to use its balanced attack to eke out a narrow win, even as underdogs against the Commodores.
Vandy’s defense can cause problems, but Baylor has enough talent at the skill positions to keep fresh and active bodies on the field and wear away at Vanderbilt over the course of this affair.