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The BBVA Compass Bowl is one of the lesser games thrown in between the big BCS matchups. Because of that, not many people are as familiar with these teams, but since no other games are played on Jan. 4, there will be plenty of money involved. The Commodores are slim -2.5 point favorites over the Cougars at sportsbook.com.
The pre-game news to look at for this one includes Vanderbilt's normal starting quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels will not play because of knee surgery. In his place will be Patton Robinette, who started two games this year. As for Houston, their offensive coordinator left for a job at TCU, leaving assistant head coach Travis Bush (who called plays in 2012) to take over.
Playing in the SEC, Vandy had an up-and-down season, as one would expect from a mediocre team in the conference. They finished with an 8-4 record and only lost to top opponents. The Commodores had a nice win against Georgia in October and closed the season with four straight wins, including two road wins at Florida and Tennessee.
Houston finished with the same record in the AAC, but did it in surprising fashion as they went 10-2 ATS. The Cougars' four losses were by a combined 20 points, so we know they'll likely keep this game close. A couple of those losses were back-to-back road games at UCF and Louisville. However, they don't really have great wins, with the best one probably coming at Rutgers.
Luckily for Vandy, the redshirt freshman Robinette has some experience. Unfortunately, that's all he has as his numbers are quite a bit below Carta-Samuels (albeit a smaller sample). Robinette completed 58 percent of his passes for two TDs and three INTs on the year. Give him a full month of practice with wide receivers Jordan Matthews (107 receptions, 1,334 yards, five TDs) and Jonathan Krause (703 yards, three TDs) and things could change. Matthews is a massive threat in the receiving game and one of the best in the country. Vandy's run game isn't great, but they still have 31 TDs as a team. RB Jerron Seymour has been big with 13 of those TDs, while Wesley Tate is a solid fill-in.
One thing to watch out for is Houston's ability to get turnovers. The Cougars led the nation in takeaways with 40 and a plus-25 turnover margin. Robinette will have to play smart.
The Commodores' defense struggled at times this year, but against a team like Houston, should be able to keep this game lower scoring much like Vandy's previous four games. Not to mention, Houston's last four games have hit the under.
The Cougars have a solid offense, but couldn't put up high point totals against better opponents. This will be one of their tougher tasks.
Houston quarterback John O'Korn has done well in his first season throwing 28 TDs to only eight INTs. This team likes to pass a lot and there's no reason why it will stop here. This will be the first time O'Korn is getting plays from Travis Bush so that will be something to look at. Receivers Deontay Greenberry (76 receptions, 1,106 yards, 10 TDs) and Daniel Spencer (764 yards, six TDs) are by far O'Korn's favorite targets. Their run game falls in line with what Vandy produces. Ryan Jackson (655 yards, six TDs) and Kenneth Farrow (486 yards, five TDs) do what they can with the limited touches they get.
This one is set to be fairly close and it's sort of like a benchmark for the AAC. While Vandy isn't a great SEC team, it would be nice if Houston can compete or even win this one.
The Commodores don't have many trends in their favor going 6-6 ATS this year. They are 4-0 ATS coming off an ATS loss, though. The Cougars are 6-0 ATS in their last six non-conference games, 5-1 ATS in their last six neutral site games and 5-2 ATS in their last seven vs. the SEC.
Opinion Only - Houston +2
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