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The Vanderbilt Commodores will be hoping to end their season on a three-game winning streak when they face the Baylor Bears in the Texas Bowl at NRG Stadium in Houston, Tex. on Dec. 27. Vanderbilt made a late charge to become bowl eligible, reaching 6-6 thanks to back-to-back victories over Ole Miss and Tennessee. The Bears also improved to 6-6 in their final outing of the regular season, halting a two-game skid by beating Texas Tech on Nov. 24.
Vaughn could have a field day
Vanderbilt junior running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn has amassed 1,001 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 144 carries. He is averaging an SEC-best 6.95 yards per attempts and leads the conference with seven runs of at least 40 yards. Vaughn, who is also averaging 13.1 yards per reception, will be a big test for a Baylor team that has allowed 175.0 rushing yards per game.
One. More. Game.
— Vanderbilt Football (@VandyFootball) December 2, 2018
Senior quarterback Kyle Shurmur (2,844 yards, 23 passing touchdowns) finished the regular season in especially fine form, completing 73.2 percent of his passes for 999 yards, 11 touchdowns, and one interception over the final four games.
“Shurmur jumped in midway through his freshman year, and grew up fast in a conference not for the faint of heart,” head coach Derek Mason commented. “He’s put a little more on his resume and knows how to handle the pressure of being a quarterback in the SEC. He’s played to his strengths and is a pretty prolific play caller in this day and age when quarterbacks get most of the signal calling from the sideline.”
“I thought it was really important, cool for us to play an SEC team,” Baylor head coach Matt Rhule noted. “That’s a premiere conference. I thought it’d be really important for us to go get a Power 5 win. The respect I have for Vanderbilt, coach Mason, they had to win their last two games to get bowl eligible. They went out and earned this, they’re going to be excited to play. We’re playing one of the best quarterbacks in the country.”
He needs just 119 passing yards, seven completions, and 16 attempts to pass Jay Cutler’s school records in those three departments. Shurmur, who already has the career record with 63 touchdown passes, tossed 16 of his TDs to junior receiver Kalija Lipscomb (81 catches, 886 yards) and junior tight end Jared Pinkney (45 catches, 698 yards).
Baylor back in a bowl
Something called the Academy Sports and Outdoors Texas Bowl is not what Baylor would have had in mind several years ago, but by the program’s recent standards it marks a relative success. The Bears followed up a one-win campaign in year one under Rhule with 6-6 regular-season record–just good enough to find themselves in a bowl. Interestingly, when he was at Temple not too long ago Rhule beat Vanderbilt 37-7 in the 2014 opener. That was also current Vandy head coach Derek Mason’s first game with the Commodores. Rhule, the rest of the coaching staff, and the players are trying to mix in some fun along with their hard work in Houston this week.
“When we step on the practice field, I don’t care if you just got done visiting kids in the hospital, or just ate Christmas dinner, or just got in from being out, you’ve got to go,” Rhule said. “That’s what we’re looking for from our guys. The feeling around our program has steadily improved, and during bowl practice it really has come to life. I think the guys are really enjoying being around each other.”
The Bears will be without receiver Jalen Hurd, who played through a knee injury in the regular-season finale to help fuel a 35-24 win over Texas Tech that got his team bowl eligible. Hurd, who was named the Big 12’s Offensive Newcomer of the Year after stockpiling 69 receptions for 946 yards and four touchdowns, underwent a procedure on Dec. 4 that has him on the shelf. Junior receiver Denzel Mims (49 catches, 699 yards, team-high eight touchdowns) will try to replace some of Hurd’s production.
Baylor will need to focus on protecting sophomore quarterback Charlie Brewer (2,635 yards, 17 touchdowns), who has also rushed for six scores in addition to his prowess through the air. The Bears have turned in a conference-worst turnover margin of minus-9 and they have surrendered 37 sacks–also worst in the Big 12. Sophomore running back John Lovett (546 yards, five touchdowns) is coming off a career-high 125 rushing yards in the regular-season finale.
The Baylor Bears are:
- 0-5-1 ATS in their last six non-conference games
- 4-11-1 ATS in their last 16 games following a win
- 4-0 Under in their last four overall
The Vanderbilt Commodores are:
- 5-0 ATS in their last five overall
- 5-1 ATS in their last six non-conference games
- 4-0 ATS in their last four games on fieldturf
Updated on Dec 27 at 8:25am EST
Update prepared by our editoral staff
Public Money / Line Movements
The Commodores have gone from -6.5 down to -4, despite the fact that they are getting 64.0% of the bets. The Sharps are all over the Bears in this one.
Injury / Weather Report
No Weather Issues Expected
Vanderbilt’s Impact Injury Report
Questionable— RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn (1001 Yards, 12 Total TDs)
Baylor’s Impact Injury Report
Questionable– WR Jalen Hurd (946 Yards, Seven TDs), RB JaMycal Hasty (346 Yards, Four Total TDs)
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
This looks like a good matchup for Vanderbilt–and especially for Vaughn–given the way Baylor’s defense struggles against opposing rushing attacks. As for the Bears’ own ground game, it has been inconsistent. They are churning out 208.5 rushing yards per game in their six wins, but they are saddled with an average of just 110.5 such yards in their six setbacks. Turnover margin has massively been in Vanderbilt’s favor throughout the season, so count on that being a factor.
Prediction: Vanderbilt Commodores
Full-Game Total Pick
The Bears lead the country with seven blocked kicks, getting three from sophomore defensive end B.J. Thompson (two extra points, punt) and two from senior defensive end Greg Roberts (two field goals). Hurd’s absence, however, will obviously hurt the offense. Vanderbilt junior cornerback Joejuan Williams recorded four of the team’s 12 interceptions the ‘Dores finished the regular season plus-8 in turnover margin. The under is 4-1 in the Commodores’ last five overall, 5-0 in their last five following a win, 7-1 in their last eight non-conference contests, and 8-3 in their last 11 on fieldturf. It is also 4-0 in the Bears’ last four overall, 9-4 in their last 13 following a win, 4-1 in their last five on fieldturf, and 7-1 in their last eight in December. Look for this one to stay under the total.