Yet another fairly new bowl game to be living under its third different name -- Birmingham Bowl, PapaJohn's Bowl -- and soon its fourth, this year's event pits the Vanderbilt Commodores out of the SEC against the Houston Cougars of Conference USA. Legion Field in
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It's the first ever gridiron meeting for the Commodores and Cougars, and Vandy has been installed as a field goal favorite. College football odds for the match also include a 54 point total, down a half from the opening bell.
'Dores Go Bowling For 3rd-Straight Season
James Franklin is batting 1.000 at Vanderbilt as he prepares
to take his team to a bowl game for the third straight year since he took over
Defense is the strength of this year's Commodore crew, ranking 25th in the country in total yards allowed (351.1 ypg) and 21st in fewest passing (204.3 ypg). The stop unit could be missing a couple of key players in the backfield, however, as starting cornerback Andre Hal is questionable due to a shoulder injury and safety Andrew Williamson is listed with the same status due to a leg injury. Hal was tied for fifth on the team with 40 tackles and also picked off two passes.
Austyn Carta-Samuels directed a very average offense at quarterback, completing nearly 69% of his passes but registering a poor 11/9 TD-to-interception ratio. His favorite target has been fellow senior Jordan Matthews who led all SEC receivers with 107 catches, 4th-most in the country.
It's not a spectacular offensive line in front of
Carta-Samuels, allowing 32 sacks and also rating poorly in run blocking. The line might be without starting right
tackle Andrew Jelks, an All-SEC Freshman team selection. Jelks didn't play in the season finale vs.
Cougs Back In Bowl After 1-Year Absence
Tony Levine just completed his second season at UH, guiding
the Cougars back into the bowl season following a 5-7 mark in 2012. Levine took over at Houston (8-4 SU, 10-2
ATS) at the end of the 2011 season when Kevin Sumlin left for Texas A&M,
and coached the team to a 30-14 win over
The Cougars appeared to be a player for the C-USA title
after they got off to a 7-1 overall start in 2013, including a 4-0 mark in
conference play. But then came a tough
stretch in November when UH dropped three straight close affairs, two of them
on the road to ranked Central Florida and
On the defensive side, the Cougars allowed 420 yards per
game which has them near the bottom of that column, but it was more of a bend, don't break unit since they
surrendered only 20.2 PPG, 16th fewest in the country.
This matchup has the makings to be an entertaining game, and my crystal ball suggests it comes down to a late boot to decide it. I'm adding the Cougars plus the points to my college football picks.