Houston poses challenge for Vandy

The Vanderbilt Commodores opponent in the 2014 BBVA Compass Bowl, January 4 at Legion Field in Birmingham is a formidable one, especially on the offensive side of the ball. In the tradition of Houston teams past, this Cougars team throws the ball around—a lot. Houston passes just under 40 times a game, for just under 300 yards per game. It is a quick offense, which consists mostly of short throws.

Vanderbilt Commodores (8-4 overall, 4-4 SEC) vs. Houston Cougars (8-4 overall, 5-3 American)
2014 BBVA Compass Bowl – Saturday, January 4, 2014 – Legion Field – Birmingham, Ala.

Vanderbilt Season Results – L39-35 Ole Miss, W38-3 Austin Peay, L35-25 at South Carolina, W24-7 at Massachusetts, W52-24 UAB, L51-28 Missouri, W31-27 Georgia, L56-24 at Texas A&M, W34-17 at Florida, W22-6 Kentucky, W14-10 at Tennessee, W23-21 Wake Forest.
Overall Bowl Record: 3-2-1 (Last – 12/31/2012 W38-24 NC State at Music City Bowl)

Houston Season Results – W62-13 Southern, W22-13 at Temple, W31-26 Rice, W59-28 at Texas-San Antonio, W25-15 Memphis, L47-46 BYU, W49-14 at Rutgers, W35-23 South Florida, L19-14 at Central Florida, L20-13 at Louisville, L24-17 Cincinnati, W34-0 SMU.
Overall Bowl Record: 9-11-1 (Last – 1/2/2012 W30-14 Penn State at TicketCity Bowl)

Houston’s attack is fronted by QB John O’Korn. The American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year led all true freshman quarterbacks nationally with 26 touchdown passes while throwing only eight interceptions. O’Korn took over for two-year starter David Piland who retired after the Temple game due to chronic injury. When the Cougars want to give a different look, they turn to another true freshman in Greg Ward for a running threat from the QB position. Ward rushed for 179 yards and two scores while being very efficient when he did pass the ball completing 66.7%.

Ryan Jackson is the leading rusher for the Cougars with 655 yards and six touchdowns for a squad averaging 138.4 yards on the ground. Deontay Greenberry is the most dangerous of a quality wide receiver corps having caught 76 passes for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Houston leads all of FBS having forced 40 turnovers this season including 23 interceptions, and is an amazing +25 in turnover margin. Adrian McDonald had five picks to lead the team. Derrick Mathews had seven sacks and a team-leading 71 solo tackles. Efrem Oliphant had 123 total tackles with 12½ for loss, and Trevon Stewart was always around the ball recording six fumble recoveries. On special teams, UH is 16-for-22 on field goals but had three blocked. Demarcus Ayers is the primary kick returner, with a 95-yard TD to his credit.

This game looks to be a good one. Vanderbilt is strong against the pass, Houston’s strength. The Cougars employ a high-risk, high-reward defense—big plays can be had against them as long as you avoid mistakes. Patton Robinette figures to go the whole way for Vandy at QB with the loss of Austyn Carta-Samuels. Vanderbilt has more talent and is stronger up-front. Houston may have a speed advantage, especially when they have the ball. Whichever quarterback is the most consistent will probably determine the game. The experts have Vandy consistently about a three-point favorite. Look for Vanderbilt to win their second bowl in a row. Vanderbilt wins 27-24.