The final bowl game for Thursday, Dec. 27 is the Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl. Our Texas Bowl free pick has the Vanderbilt Commodores (6-6, 6th SEC – East) at the Baylor Bears (6-6, 6th Big 12). The game, which kicks off at 9:00 pm ET, will be played at NRG Stadium in Houston, TX. Our 2018 Texas Bowl free pick has the Commodores favored by 3.5 or 4.0 points. The over/under is at 55.5.
The Commodores had an uneven season at best, Although they bookended their season with two wins on either side, they were 2-8 otherwise. Vandy met and lost to four nationally-ranked teams, Notre Dame, Georgia, Florida, and Kentucky. Baylor had a similar season. They won their first two games and their final contest of the season. The Bears, like the Commodores, played four nationally-ranked teams, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, and Iowa State. They lost to each team.
Vanderbilt – Analysis
The Commodores averaged 27.7 PPG, as they posted on average 397.8 YPG in offense. Included in that total were 240.2 YPG in the air and 157.6 YPG on the ground. Senior QB Kyle Shurmur (64.0 COMP%, 23 TDs, 6 INTs) threw for over 2,800 yards. Shurmur has a sound group of pass catchers that includes two juniors, WR Kalija Lipscomb and TE Jared Pinkney. Lipscomb leads the team with 81 catches for 886 yards and nine TDs. Pinkney has 45 receptions and seven TD grabs. Another junior, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, leads the ground attack. Vaughn averaged 7.0 YPA, while gaining a total os 1,001 yards and scoring 10 times.
Vandy offered up 419.8 YPG to opponents. Included were 187.3 rushing yards and 232.6 passing yards. The Commodore D allowed 25.1 PPG. Our 2018 Texas Bowl free pick notes that the Vanderbilt defense could be a major factor and difference-maker in this game. However, with 19 QB bring-downs, we don’t think they’re a huge sack threat. They do have 56 TFL, which indicates some decent resistance towards the rush attack. The secondary has 13 picks and 49 PD.
Baylor – Analysis
The Bears’ passing game was healthy, as they averaged 282.2 YPG in the air. At the same time, the rush attack was good for 159.5 YPG. Baylor averaged 28.3 PPG. Sophomore QB Charlie Brewer (61.5 COMP%, 17 TDs, 8 INTs) is sound in the pocket. He has been sacked 30 times. Two wideouts are his targets of choice, senior Jalen Hurd and junior Denzel Mims. Hurd has 69 catches for 946 yards and four scores. Mims, who has eight TD catches, comes to this game with 49 catches, averaging 14.3 YPC. Sophomore running back John Lovett rushed 100 times this season, gaining a total of 546 yards and scoring five times.
Baylor gave up 31.2 PPG. The allowed 174.8 YPG in rushing and 238.4 YPG in passing. Our 2018 Texas Bowl free pick sees this defense is problematic. They’ve managed to grab just six picks and have defended under 30 passes. On the line, James Lynch and Greg Roberts will need to lead. Together, they have accumulated 16.5 TFL and 7.5 sacks.
Five Keys to the Game
- Baylor offense can produce
- Vandy D has the potential to step up
- Bear defense has some major weaknesses
- QB matchup favors Commodores
- Baylor offense lacks depth
Our 2018 Texas Bowl Free Pick
Our 2018 Texas Bowl free pick likes the Bears at -3.5. We feel that they have an edge on defense and in overall depth on offense. We’re also going with the over at 55.5. We do expect each team to be able to score enough to hit the top. See our picks for Thursday’s Independence Bowl and Pinstripe Bowl. To connect to our series of picks, please go to our 2018 Bowl schedule page.