Cincinnati Bearcats (9-3 SU, 6-5-1 ATS) vs. Vanderbilt Commodores (6-6 SU, 9-3 ATS), Saturday December 31st, 2011. 3:30PM EST, AutoZone Liberty Bowl,
Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium Memphis, T.N.
By Jay Horne, College Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Cinci -2.5/Vandy +2.5
Over/Under Total: 48.5
Bet the Liberty Bowl using your credit card at a sportsbook that CAN get your card to work for deposits: BetOnline.
The AutoZone Liberty Bowl has become one of the better postseason bowls over the last several years. The Liberty Bowl has not always presented the most popular teams over the last few years, but the game has grown an increasing reputation for having great football games for the viewing public. In fact over the last 7 Liberty Bowl’s, all of those games have been decided by 1 score or less. This year’s matchup promises to be another close contest featuring the Cincinnati Bearcats and the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Cincinnati won a share of the Big East Championship this season but missed out on the tie breaking scenarios that sent West Virginia to the Orange Bowl. Instead the 9-3 Bearcats will have the chance to capture their 10th win of the season for the 4th time in the last 5 years when the battle the Commodores in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. Vanderbilt on the other hand scored a big victory over Wake Forest in the season finale just to get to 6 wins and become bowl eligible. The Commodores delivered in a big way scoring a 41-7 victory over Wake Forest and will make just their 5th ever bowl appearance in school history when they battle the Bearcats on New Year’s Eve.
To the viewing public, Cincinnati may be the appetizing pick considering the Bearcats are in search for their 10th win while the Commodores limped into the postseason. After all, the Bearcats have posted some solid numbers this season on offense averaging 33 points per game. Compare that to a Vanderbilt team that averages just 342 total yards (97th in NCAA) and 25 points (60th in NCAA) per game and you can see why some may side with the Bearcats.
On offense for Cincinnati, tailback Isaiah Pead is possibly the biggest playmaker that the Commodores defense must stop. Pead has rushed for 1,110 yards this year with 11 touchdowns to his credit. Pead leads a Cincinnati rushing attack that has averaged 175 yards per game on the ground which has been the key to their offensive success this season. Sophomore QB Munchie Legaux has received the start behind center for the injured Zach Collaros over the last several games. However, Legaux has not been as efficient as the Bearcats would like completing just 47% for 749 yards with 5 touchdowns and 4 scores to his season totals. Therefore, it will be telling to see if the Bearcats can establish some success with Pead in the rushing game or if they will have to put more responsibility on the arm of Legaux.
If Cincinnati has trouble moving the football, rest assured the Vanderbilt defense will make it even tougher on the Bearcats offense. Despite having offensive troubles this year, the Commodores defense has been rock solid holding opponents to just 324 total yards (19th in NCAA) per game. Additionally that Vanderbilt defense has allowed just 20.83 points (27th in NCAA) per game on the season as well. The reality is if the offense could have been more effective this season, those defensive numbers would be even better.
Still even if the Commodores are able to stop the Bearcats offense, they still must find ways to score as well. For most of the year, the offense has been one dimensional with the only viable threat coming by way of running back Zac Stacy. Stacy has tallied 1,136 yards and 13 touchdowns on the year while sporting a stout 6.2 yards per carry. Stacy had a huge outing in the win over Wake Forest in the season finale rushing for 184 yards with 3 scores and the Commodores hope for a repeat performance.
For most of the year, Vanderbilt has not had any type of passing success and they rank 97th in the nation averaging just 175 passing yards per game. QB Jordan Rodgers, the little brother of Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, took over behind center halfway through the season. Rodgers has experienced some highs and lows this year but has made improvement nevertheless. On the season, Rodgers has completed just 51% passing for 1,498 yards with 9 scores and 9 picks. The interceptions and inconsistency has definitely been a big concern but if Rodgers continues improving he should be able to add some type of passing threat to the Vanderbilt offense which is something the offense did not have as the year began.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I have a huge play on Vanderbilt in this game. The Commodores closed out the season playing really well despite a couple of really close losses. With Cincinnati having offensive troubles as well, I think the Commodores will show the nation just how sfar they have come from a program standpoint in Coach James Franklin’s first year. Consider this a huge play on the Commodores at +2.5.
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