Baylor Bears vs. Vanderbilt Commodores
Date and Time: Thursday, December 27, 2018, 9 p.m. ET
Location: NRG Stadium, Houston, TX
Opening CFB Odds: Vanderbilt -6, 55
Baylor vs. Vanderbilt TV Coverage: ESPN
It’s already been a successful season for the Bears who went 1-11 last year and are 6-6 coming into play. A record above .500 would be a great stepping stone, of course, but the improvement under Matt Rhule is great regardless of the outcome on Thursday night.
Baylor was a far better team at home than on the road this season and this is technically not a home game although it’s not a long journey from Waco to Houston either.
The Bears and Commodores are both strong offensive teams, at least according to yards per game. The Bears can rack up the yardage with 442 yards per game, but the team is scoring just 28.3 per contest. That’s not bad production, but the points and yardage don’t quite add up as Baylor ranks amongst the worst teams in red zone efficiency, each scoring in just about 75-percent of their red zone chances.
Vanderbilt’s offense is led by Ke’Shawn Vaughn’s rushing. The talented back is as efficient as they come with nearly seven yards a carry and a plethora of huge runs. He’s also a solid receiver out of the backfield and one that can tally the yards after the catch. He’s the key to this offense and will be a major challenge for the Bears given the number of things he can do on the gridiron.
On the other side, Baylor may have some issues with Jalen Hurd out with a knee injury. He’s a big loss in the receiving corps that could certainly impact this one. The Bears have a great passing attack and Hurd is a big part of that though Denzel Mims is
Charlie Brewer’s favorite target in the end zone.
Another impact on this game is defense where the Commodores have a decided advantage, particularly when it comes to turnovers.
Watch the turnovers in this one. These two teams are similar in high yardage, poor red zone production, but turnover ratio heavily favors Vanderbilt. Baylor will need to do a better job protecting the football on Thursday than they have to this point in the season. They’ll also need to be more aggressive defensively.
The Bears have allowed 18 interceptions this year while forcing just nine, leaving them at a net loss of nine. The Commodores, on the other hand, find themselves in the positive with eight more turnovers created than lost. Vandy has 21 takeaways to just 13 turnovers.
If there are several turnovers in this game, look for that to favor the Commodores who should be able to carry that to a sizeable win. If, however, the Bears play a bit more conservatively, that could help in the red zone and allow them to keep the ball, minimizing the sizeable gap between this team’s total offensive and scoring offense.
Matchup To Watch
We know Vaughn is the key to the Vanderbilt offense, but the matchup for him is strong in this contest and he should far well regardless. The biggest matchup to watch is how well Kyle Shurmur will fair against the Baylor pass rush.
Shurmur closed out the season on fire with 999 yards and 11 scores in four games. Perhaps more importantly, the QB gave up just a single interception in those four contests. If Shurmur is at the top of his game in this one, that adds an extra element to Vandy’s offense and could allow the Commodores to cover the spread.
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Ball control may be the difference maker in this one. These are two evenly matched teams coming in with identical records and similar production. The Bears are the slightly better offensive club, but Vanderbilt has the nod on defense. They also have a bit more health.
In the end, look for the Commodores to inch out the win on the strength of a superior defense, although this should be enough of a shootout to allow bettors to cash in on the over.
Hurd is a significant loss, but Brewer still has enough targets to allow him to move the ball in the air and keep this game down to the wire. Both teams will score often, but Vandy will win the turnover battle and the game, just not by enough to cover.
CFB ATS Betting Pick: Baylor +4 & Over 55 at BookMaker.eu
CFB Score Prediction: Commodores 31 – Bears 30
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