- Vanderbilt had the 24th-most runs of 40-plus yards this season, and Baylor allowed the 25th most. That could be a problem for the Bears in the Texas Bowl.
Baylor Bears vs. Vanderbilt Commodores (-3.5)
Thu., December 27, 9:00 p.m. ET
Three things to know before betting on Baylor-Vanderbilt:
1. With a 6-6 record straight up and an 8-4 mark against the spread, Derek Mason's Commodores had a successful season, becoming bowl eligible despite a brutal schedule that included Notre Dame, Georgia and Florida. After a 3-5 start, Vanderbilt earned their berth in the Texas Bowl by winning three of its last four. Vandy also ripped off five straight wins against the spread to end the regular season.
After going 1-11 in 2017, Baylor can also be proud of its 6-6 record both straight up and against the spread. But the Bears' resume is not nearly as strong as Vanderbilt's. The Bears lost two of their final three games, setting them up for this discouraging trend: Over the past five seasons, underdogs of 3.5 to 10 points that have lost two of their last three games are 36-73 ATS against teams that have won two of their last three. Baylor head coach Matt Rhule is also only 1-5 against the spread versus out-of-conference opponents since taking over the job last year, with a 17-point win over UTSA as a 16.5-point favorite accounting for the lone tally in the win column.
2. Baylor is known for throwing the ball early and often. The Bears run pass plays on 52.2% of snaps (28th in FBS). It served them well at times, including in an upset win against Texas Tech in their regular season finale to gain bowl eligibility. But more often than not down the stretch this season, the Bears offense sputtered. Baylor put up just 17 against Texas, 14 against both West Virginia and Iowa State, and a measly nine against TCU. Those are not encouraging numbers, especially considering that Baylor's top receiver Jalen Hurd will miss the game with a knee injury.
Vanderbilt has faced much more explosive passing attacks in recent weeks and fared well. Vandy nearly took down Missouri (27th nationally in passing yards per game), losing 33-28 as 14.5-point underdogs, and it beat Ole Miss (the fifth-best passing attack) 36-29 as a 3.5-point favorite. Since Mason took over as Commodores head coach in 2014, Vanderbilt is 10-3 against the spread when playing teams that average at least 275 passing yards per game.
3. Vanderbilt's offense was well-rounded this year, with quarterback Kyle Shurmur posting a stellar 23-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio and running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn going for 1,001 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground on 7.0 yards per carry. Vanderbilt ball carriers ripped off runs of 40-plus yards on seven separate occasions this season, 24th-most in FBS.
That won't be good for the Bears, who were vulnerable to big plays. Baylor allowed opposing offenses to gain 20-plus yards on 9.1% of snaps, a number that ranks 111th in the nation. Baylor gave up eight running plays of 40-plus yards this year, more than all but 19 teams in the country. All told, this is a great matchup for Vanderbilt that should allow them to cover a pretty narrow spread without too much trouble.
Pick: Vanderbilt -3.5
Confidence Level: Very High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)