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2018 Bowl Coverage

Texas Bowl First Look: Leadership To Be Tested For Both Baylor And Vanderbilt

What do the Commodores and the Bears have in common? Quarterbacks with some chops. What else? Let’s look.

Even though we’re a couple of weeks out from when Baylor and Vanderbilt face off in Houston in the Academy Sports And Outdoors Texas Bowl, it’s never too early to take a quick peak at how they match up.

This is a meeting of two squads who had to fight all the way to the finish line in order to qualify for a bowl game, and we should expect both to bring their best football into this contest.

Each team also had to down an in-state foe in order to earn an extra game in December. Baylor squared away a sixth win by beating Texas Tech in Arlington, while Vanderbilt boat-raced Tennessee at home.

Though they’ve made enough plays to earn the right to play in a bowl, there are definitely flaws for both teams that are hard to ignore.

MATCHUP BU VAN
Points Per Game 28.3 27.7
Points Allowed/Game 31.2 25.1
Yards Per Game 441.7 397.8
Opp. Yards Per Game 413.3 419.8
Points Per Play .323 .405
Opp. Points Per Play .468 .342
Yards Per Play 5.3 5.7
Opp. Yards Per Play 6.0 5.8
3rd Down Conversion % 45.00 34.06
Opp. 3rd Down Conversion % 43.33 45.75
Turnovers Gained 9 21
Turnovers Lost 18 13
Average Time of Possesion 32:40 31:45

One of the biggest disparities for these two teams has been in the turnover department. While Vanderbilt has managed to get 21 turnovers on the season and be plus-eight in turnover margin, the Bears have actually lost the ball five more times than they’ve taken it away.

Somewhat like Baylor, the Commodores have a defensive-minded coach, but their defense has not played great overall. Where they have excelled, though, is in taking the ball away.

Where Baylor seems to have an advantage is in time of possession, where the Bears are actually a Top 15 team in the nation. Baylor has benefitted from being a ball control team throughout 2018, something that has helped keep their defense from being exposed to too many plays.

And keeping the Bears’ defensive unit off the field will be key for them.

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After all, their vulnerabilities on that side of the ball stick out when compared against Vanderbilt’s, who gives up a little over a third of a point per play. By contrast, Baylor has been giving up almost a half a point on average.

One area where the Bears have the most substantial lead over the Commodores is in third down conversion percentage. Vanderbilt is in 105th in the nation in that respect, while Baylor ranks 21st out of all FBS squads.

That could potentially be a very impactful statistic if this game comes down to how well both of these squads are able to convert on third down.

PASS LEADERS C/ATT YDS AVG TD INT QB RATING
BU – C. Brewer 219/356 2,635 7.4 17 8 135.0
VAN – K. Shurmur 236/369 2,844 7.7 23 6 146.0
RUSH LEADERS CAR YDS AVG TD
BU –  J. Lovett 100 546 5.5 5
VAN – K. Vaughn 144 1001 7.0 10
RECEIVING LEADERS REC YDS AVG TD
BU – J. Hurd 69 946 13.7 4
VAN – K. Lipscomb 81 886 10.9 9

Having to face key conversion situations will mean that leaders for Vanderbilt and Baylor will have to step up, and the Commodores certainly have veteran leadership at quarterback.

Vanderbilt also has something that is almost unheard of at that position in the Big 12, and that’s a four year starter taking snaps.

Senior Kyle Shurmur is more of a pocket passer who takes care of the ball the way you’d imagine that a veteran would, and he’s had one of his better seasons after tossing 23 touchdowns in 2018.

But Vanderbilt relies slightly more on the running game to power their offense, with junior Ke’Shawn Vaughn the leading ball carrier. Vaughn has accounted for over 1,000 yards on the ground this season, but is questionable for this game due to an arm injury he suffered in the Commodores’ last game against Tennessee.

Baylor also has leadership at quarterback in sophomore Charlie Brewer, who’ll have to shoulder much of the offensive load for this game. The Bears will be without their leading receiver Jalen Hurd, who’s been ruled out for this game following knee surgery he had in early December.

That means this could be a game where wideouts Denzel Mims and Chris Platt really have an opportunity to shine. The Brewer-to-Hurd connection has helped Baylor all season, and Hurd’s absence is probably the reason why Vanderbilt is currently favored by more than a field goal.

But Baylor has had playmakers at their skill positions since Matt Rhule stepped onto campus, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see running back John Lovett, Mims, or Platt really have a big game in this one.

We’ll have to wait to see if that happens, though, until Baylor and Vanderbilt meet up in NRG Stadium on December 27th.

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