Head-to-Head: Vanderbilt vs. Cincinnati

The Vanderbilt Commodores face the Cincinnati Bearcats in the 53rd annual AutoZone Liberty Bowl. VandyMania.com compares different critical team areas of the two teams and indicates which unit has the edge. We also predict the game's final score.



The 47th ranked Vanderbilt offense (167 YPG) faces off against the 6th ranked Cincinnati rushing defense (93 YPG)  The 'Dores, led by Zac Stacy, put up 297 rushing yards in their last game against Wake Forest.  Stacy rushed for 1136 yards and 13 TDs this season, while averaging (6.2 YPC).  The Bearcats have a monster in senior defensive tackle Derek Wolfe who will clog up running holes, and demand extra attention.  Wolfe was 6th in the country with 19.5 tackles for a loss and for 10th nationally with 9.5 sacks.  Middle linebacker J.K. Schaffer led the team with 105 tackles, 12 for a loss while earning All-Big East honors.  Though Cincinnati boasts one of the top ranked run defenses, the competition they played is questionable.  Nine of the Bearcats 11 FBS opponents ranked 90th or worse in rushing offense.



The 'Dores rank 97th in passing offense averaging (175 YPG) while the Bearcats have the 106th passing defense (268.8 YPG).  Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers has thrown for 1498 yards and nine TDs since earning the starting job midseason.  Commodore sophomore Jordan Matthews leads the team with 37 receptions.  Matthews has continued to thrive late in the season with 454 yards and three TDs in the last four games.  Freshmen Chris Boyd leads the team in touchdowns with seven and has 404 yards on the season.  Cornerback Deven Drane leads the Cincinnati secondary with three interceptions and 11 passes defended.  Junior cornerback Camerron Cheatham is second among the secondary with eight passes defended and two interceptions, one of which was returned 53 yards for a touchdown.  Safety Drew Frey is second among the Bearcat tacklers with 67 with two interceptions, and six passes broken up.



The Bearcats tout the 38th ranked rushing offense averaging 175 YPG and face off with the 24th ranked Vanderbilt rushing defense (123 YPG).  Cincinnati's rushing attack is led by senior running back Isaiah Pead.  Pead was named Big East Offensive Player of the Year after rushing for 1,110 yards, 11 TDs on a (5.31 YPC) average.  Senior offensive guard Randy Martinez earned First-Team All-Big East honors helping pave the way for Pead.  The Vanderbilt rushing defense is led by senior linebacker Chris Marve who has 391 career tackles, which is seventh among active leaders in the FBS.  Rob Lohr and Tim Fugger lead the defensive line in sacks and tackles for losses.  Anchoring the end is the senior Fugger who leads the team with 12.5 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks.  Lohr has been a big presence at the tackle spot this year with 12 tackles for a loss, and five sacks.



The 69th ranked Bearcats passing offense averages 218 YPG and will try out its air assault against the 32nd ranked Vanderbilt passing defense (201 YPG).  Senior quarterback Zach Collaros looks likely to get the starting nod after breaking his ankle earlier in the season.   If Collaros isn't game ready sophomore Munchie Legaux, who took most of the snaps in his absence, looks to get the majority of snaps.  Anthony McClung leads the receivers with 48 receptions for 675 yards and five touchdowns.  The Vandy secondary has 17 interceptions on the year, five by senior Casey Hayward and three by Trey Wilson who returned two for TDs.  Senior safety Sean Richardson leads the secondary with 58 tackles.



The 'Dores are 14th nationally in allowing opponents kickoff returns averaging just 18.49 YPR.  Cincinnati is 22nd in the country allowing 19.08 YPR.  Cincinnati is 43rd in kickoff returns averaging 22.57 YPR; Vanderbilt follows one spot behind at 44th averaging 22.54 YPR.

The Commodores rank 110th in the nation in field goal attempts making 7 of 13 while the Bearcats rank 47th in making 16 of 22.  The Bearcats rank 44th allowing opponents 6.78 yards per punt return, while the 'Dores rank 10th allowing 4.29 per return.  Vanderbilt has missed some big field goals that cost them games against Georgia and Arkansas.  The Bearcats also had a blocked field goal against West Virginia that may have cost them the game.



Commodore head coach James Franklin has brought a new unprecedented enthusiasm to Vanderbilt and its first bowl game since 2008.  There is no doubt Franklin has the players giving 100 percent every down, a refreshing change from years past.  Butch Jones sports a 13-11 record in his two years at Cincinnati and is 0-2 in his career in bowl games. 



The Bearcats just barely missed out on a BCS bowl against a (10-3, 6-2) Clemson and instead get to play a Vanderbilt (6-6, 2-6).  There is no doubt the Cincinnati seniors will be hungry for their first bowl win after losing to Florida in the 2010 Sugar Bowl and falling to Virginia Tech a year earlier in the Orange Bowl.  The Commodore fans expect to have a home field advantage in a short trip to Memphis.  All the Vanderbilt players are fired up for a chance to play in a bowl game.  The seniors are excited to be the first group to play in two bowl games, and could be the first two bowl games in Vanderbilt history as well.

PREDICTION: Vanderbilt 34, Cincinnati 28

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