Following a 1-11 year in 2017, Matt Rhule has the Baylor Bears back in the bowl season after posting a 6-6 record. That’s a solid improvement in Year 2, and they will look to cap it off with a win over Vanderbilt in the Academy Sports & Outdoors Texas Bowl on December 27th. Getting that victory may be easier said than done, as the Commodores bring an experienced group to Texas for this post-Christmas matchup.
Spread: Vanderbilt -4.5
The Bears offense was good at moving the ball this season, racking up over 440 yards per game, but they had some problems finishing drives, ranking 92nd in points per scoring opportunity (h/t Bill Connelly SB Nation). Quarterback Charlie Brewer was solid as the trigger man for the offense, completing over 61 percent of his passes for 2,635 yards and 17 touchdowns. But the running attack never really found a consistent rhythm, with six different guys getting between 30 and 120 carries. Defensively, the Bears struggled with giving up explosive plays (1.30 IsoPPP) while not really stopping opponents on a consistent basis, so they can’t even really be classified as all or nothing.
That’s a problem against a Commodores team that ranks in the top 40 in that metric (1.24 IsoPPP; 32nd). Vandy’s offensive attack was led by quarterback Kyle Shurmur (64%, 2,844 yards 23 TDs) and running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn (1,001 yards 10 TDs). Vaughn is questionable to play in this game due to an arm injury, which would be a problem because the next two leading rushers were Khari Blasingame and Jamauri Wakefield, who combined for 738 yards and five touchdowns. Defensively, they have been more bend but don’t break this season, allowing just 4.42 points per scoring opportunity and keeping opponents from explosive plays (1.08 IsoPPP).
Baylor was 4-2 as an underdog against the spread this season, while Vandy was 5-1 when listed as a favorite. Overall, the Bears should be able to move the ball against the Commodores, but Vandy is likely to pull out the win. Baylor +4.5; Over 55
Local Expert Take: Bill Jones, CBS 11 Sports Anchor
“A resurgent season for Matt Rhule’s Bears, and it is a good matchup for Baylor. But, Vandy wins for the fourth time in five games, 30-20.”