Texas Bowl Pick: Baylor Bears vs. Vanderbilt Commodores
Baylor Bears (6-6 SU, 5-6-1 ATS) vs. Vanderbilt Commodores (6-6 SU, 8-4 ATS)
When: Thursday, December 27th, 2018 – 9:00 PM ET
Where: Academy Sports and Outdoors Texas Bowl – NRG Stadium – Houston, TX
Point Spread: BU +3.5 / VANDY -3.5
Power Ratings: Vanderbilt -2
Takeaways From The Regular Season
Baylor enters as one of the most improved teams in America by contrast under Coach Matt Rhule as they have won five more games this season compared to 2017 and as a result were able to gain bowl eligibility. Last year, the Bears were on the end of some lop-sided blowout losses, and a shocking upset handed to BU by the Liberty Flames where Baylor fell as a 40-plus point favorite at home on opening weekend. Most recently, Baylor defeated cross-state rival Texas Tech on November 24th pulling an upset as a six-point underdog. Baylor is 3-1 ATS in their previous four contests.
The Commodores closed out their regular season with an exclamation point as Coach Derek Mason empowered Vanderbilt to win three of their last four and get over the hump into the post-season. The Commodores have been especially kind to bettors as they have covered successfully in their previous five outings. Vanderbilt finished their campaign on November 24th with a pivotal win for the program when they defeated arch-nemesis Tennessee 38-13 at home in Nashville.
How the Public is Betting The Academy Sports and Outdoors Texas Bowl
Presently 60% of the consensus like the Commodores in this spot. Despite the public leaning on Vandy out of the gate, the line has dropped significantly from an opening figure of -6 to -3.5. This reverse line movement is often the sign of sharp action targeting an inefficiency in the number produced. With an underdog-friendly number of -6 to get the market started, the value seemed ripe for the plucking as Vanderbilt is priced just as a -2 favorite according to the Sports and Odds Power Ratings.
Baylor and Vanderbilt have not met since 1954 when the two teams played a home-and-home series against each other where the Bears notched victories in both Waco and Nashville in the ’53 and ’54 seasons. Needless to say, this historical anecdote bears little relevance in this upcoming bowl match-up.
For Baylor, the Bears will be without star wide-receiver, converted from running back, transferred from Tennessee Jalen Hurd who will be out of action nursing a knee injury. This is a significant blow to Baylor as they will be without their leading receiver as Hurd has collated 946 reception yards on the season.
When Baylor Has the Ball
Honing their reputation as a pass-happy bunch, the Bears own the 22nd-ranked passing offense in the FBS compiling 282.2 yards per game through the air. This Baylor team is also responsible for producing a 73rd-ranked 28.2 points per game. Baylor’s rushing game is less of a focal point as they own a unit that generates 159.5 rushing yards per contest (80th in the FBS).
When Vanderbilt Has the Ball
Vanderbilt in many regards is a carbon copy of Baylor from an offensive standpoint. Vandy also likes to throw more than they run but have just done so to less of a degree. The Commodores own the 58th-ranked passing attack in America that collates 240.2 passing yards per game. Vanderbilt puts up a 75th-ranked 27.7 points per game. Vanderbilt’s running game is just 1.8 yards less proficient per game compared to their counterparts as they are 83rd in the nation in rushing with 157.7 yards per game on the ground.
Given the lack of meetings between both sides, there are no noteworthy betting trends from a head-to-head perspective. However, it is worth mentioning for Total market players specifically that the Over is 4-0 ATS in Vanderbilt’s last four bowl games. On another note, Baylor is 9-1 ATS in their previous 10 December contests.
The weather will not be a factor in this affair as NRG Stadium features a retractable roof that will make the conditions always affable to the participants. In case of inclement weather, the roof will be shut. At the moment, forecasts call for temperatures outside to be cloudy with temperatures hovering in the upper 50’s to lower 60’s. A 61% chance of precipitation is prognosticated for the day of the game.
Keith’s Pick to Cover the Spread: Over 55
In terms of sides, Baylor offers the most equity, but the value has since been gobbled up by the 2.5-point line movement downward. Out of all the options on the board, the Over 55 offers the most promise as we have two teams that feature defenses that rank 76th nationally (Baylor) and 83rd (Vanderbilt) in total defense. The Dores give up 419.8 yards of offense per game while Baylor surrenders just 7.2 yards less than their counterparts with 412.6 yards of total offense per outing. This in itself creates a strong possibility for points to be generated. Moreover, for both Baylor and Vanderbilt, winning the Texas Bowl has extraordinary significance. The Bears missed the post-season last year when they went a paltry 1-11 in 2017. This season, a second consecutive failed bowl berth seemed on the horizon after Baylor dropped two straight as they were 5-6 heading into their season finale with arch-rival Texas Tech. The Bears clawed and scratched their way past Tech and into this bowl game. As for Vanderbilt, they have not a won bowl since 2013 when James Franklin was still Vandy’s Head Coach. The Dores have had only one trip to a bowl since that triumph, and it was an ugly 41-17 loss against NC State in the 2016 Independence Bowl. Vanderbilt can erase that hideous anecdote with a victory here and catapult their program forward. Needless to say, both teams will throw the kitchen sink at each other and with such prospects comes an environment for scoring to be at an optimum.