BBVA Compass Bowl preview: Houston vs. Vanderbilt
Houston (8-4, 5-3 AAC) vs. Vanderbilt (8-4, 4-4 SEC)
January 4, 1 p.m. (ESPN)
Houston Players to Watch:
Deontay Greenberry, WR—A former five-star recruit and the highest-ranked prospect to ever sign with Houston, Greenberry enters the bowl season with 76 receptions for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Efrem Oliphant, LB—One of the most active linebackers in college football, Oliphant has recorded 123 tackles (12.5 TFL) and 2.5 sacks, also forcing two fumbles.
Vanderbilt Players to Watch:
Jordan Matthews, WR—Arguably the top wide receiver in college football, Matthews utilized his size (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) to his advantage by bodying up and boxing out cornerbacks, making him a huge target in the middle of the field.
Kenny Ladler, FS—Ladler is a first-team All-SEC safety that’s No. 1 priority will be to contain Deontay Greenberry, a challenge that he’s more than happy to accept.
Houston Key to Victory:
Beat Vanderbilt’s secondary. Vanderbilt has one of the most talented defensive backs in the country, as the duo of Ladler and second-team All-SEC cornerback Andre Hal have done an outstanding job holding down the 21st-best pass defense and have allowed just 16 touchdowns through the air all season. If ACC Freshman of the Year quarterback John O’Korn—who comes in with 26 touchdowns to eight interceptions—can spread the ball around and keep the back seven on its toes, the Cougars have a solid opportunity for a bowl win.
Vanderbilt Key to Victory:
A big game from Jordan Matthews. Starting quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels is out with a torn ACL, so it’s up to freshman Patton Robinette to maintain structure on offense. Matthews will have to step up and take leadership for his inexperienced gunslinger so that he can feel comfortable letting the ball loose. He has 10 or more receptions in five games—including three in a row—this season, and Vanderbilt is 4-1 when he does so. Matthews will need to continue the streak in Birmingham.
Line: Vanderbilt (-3)
Prediction: Houston dropped three of its final four games to end the regular season, but was competitive has been competitive in every loss. It is losing by an average of 4.0 points, featuring a one-point loss to BYU and a seven-point descrepency to Louisville on the road. However, this Vanderbilt team is the first in school history to beat Florida, Tennessee and Georgia all in the same year. The Commodores have an underrated defense and have allowed 13.5 points per game over its last four (4-0).
Vanderbilt 27, Houston 17
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