Vanderbilt meets Houston on Saturday in the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham. VandyMania.com's D. Yates compares the two teams in several critical areas. We also make a prediction on the game's final score.
VANDERBILT PASSING OFFENSE
HOUSTON PASSING DEFENSE
REMARKS: Vanderbilt ranks 64th nationally (234 YPG) in passing offense. Commodore QBs have given up a total of 14 interceptions this season. However, Vanderbilt will be without 6,000 career yard passer Austyn Carta-Samuels for the game. Instead, Vandy will rely on redshirt Patton Robinette, who led Vandy to a comeback win over Georgia, a win at Florida and scored the winning touchdown at Tennessee. However, Robinette's stats are clearly not as sexy as Carta-Samuels. The Maryville, Tenn., native has completed 40-of-69 passes for 488 yards, 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Robinette, while a better passer than many of the QBs Vandy had in the pre-James Franklin days, still needs to improve on his passing and likely is more of a threat to Houston in his running ability. All-American receiver Jordan Matthews headlines the Vandy ball catchers. He has 107 catches this season and has broken numerous school and SEC receiving records. Johnathan Krause has 41 catches this season for 3 touchdowns Vanderbilt's offensive line is anchored senior Wesley Johnson. Johnson and his fellow blockers have given up 32 sacks for 174 yards this season.
Houston ranks No. 36 nationally in passing efficiency defense and is second in the nation in interceptions with 23. Houston has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 292-of-474 passes for 276 average yards per game, for 13 touchdowns and an impressive 23 interceptions. Adrian McDonald leads the Cougars with five interceptions. Zach McMillan and Trevon Stewart each have four. Thomas Bates (9 PBU) and Steven Taylor each have a pair of picks. Six other players have at least one interception. Cougar defenders have 30 sacks this season led by middle linebacker Derrick Mathews with seven. Freshman defensive end Tyus Bowser has five along with 11 QB hurries.
VANDERBILT RUSHING OFFENSE
HOUSTON RUSHING DEFENSE
REMARKS: Vanderbilt is ranked 98th nationally and last in the SEC in rushing offense (133 YPG, 14 TDs). Jerron Seymour is a small but strong and quick back who has run for 627 yards in 144 carries (4.4 YPC) and a team leading 13 touchdowns. His longest run has gone for 58 yards. Senior Wesley Tate has 353 yards in 87 carries for four scores. Speedy Brian Kimbrow has 68 carries for 266 yards and 2 TDs. Patton Robinette is an effective running QB with a quick first step. He has 56 carries for 177 yards and six touchdowns.
Houston's rushing defense has allowed an average of 138.4 yards per game and 9 TDs combined in 2013, good for 36th nationally.
Efrem Olphant leads Houston in tackles with 123, 65 of those were solos. Derrick Matthews has 110 tackles including 12 tackles for losses. The Cougars are solid at stopping the run, ranking 36th in the nation (144 PG). Free safety Trevon Stewart has 99 tackles and six fumble recoveries. The Houston defense has a total of 72 tackles for losses for 347 yards this season.
HOUSTON PASSING OFFENSE
VANDERBILT PASSING DEFENSE
Houston has a prolific passing attack, ranking 24th in the nation at 284 yards per game. Freshman quarterback John O'Korn completed 239 of 399 passes for 2,889 yards, 26 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. The Cougars are No. 2 in the nation interceptions thrown with just the eight. Sophomore wide receiver Deontay Greenberry earned first team all-AAC honors after catching 76 passes for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns. Daniel Spencer has 50 catches for 764 yards and six TDs. Houston's blockers have allowed 25 sacks this season (67th nationally).
Vanderbilt is ranked 35th nationally and third in the SEC in pass efficiency defense. Vandy pass defenders have intercepted 16 passes this season, good for 22nd best in the nation. Kenny Ladler leads the 'Dores in interceptions with five. Redshirt freshman Paris Head has three, all over the last three games. Cornerback Andre Hal and safety Andrew Williamson each have a pair of picks. Commodore defenders have accounted for 24 sacks this season (61st nationally). Defensive ends Kyle Woestmann (5.5) and Walker May (4.0) lead the Commodores in sacks.
HOUSTON RUSHING OFFENSE
VANDERBILT RUSHING DEFENSE
REMARKS: Houston runs about 46.5 percent of plays (408/877) The Cougars are 93rd nationally in rushing offense (138.4 YPG). Ryan Jackson leads Houston in rushing with 655 yards (4.8 YPC) on 137 carries for six touchdowns. Kenneth Farrow has 486 yards on 94 carries (5.1 YPC) for five touchdowns.
Vandy's rushing defense is ranked 40th nationally, giving up 148 yard per game on average. All-SEC safety Kenny Ladler leads the Commodores in tackles with 87. Sophomore linebacker Darreon Herring is second with 80. Veteran linebackers Karl Butler (38 tackles) and Chase Garnham (19 tackles) both missed games during the regular season due to injuries both should be at full strength for the bowl.
REMARKS: Vanderbilt kicker Carey Spear has connected on 13-of-17 field goals this season with a long of 54. Spear has made two field goals over 50 yards. Commodore punters are averaging 38.42 net yards per punt good for 27th in the nation. Vandy is ranked second nationally in kickoff return defense, allowing just under 16 yards per return on average.
Vandy has allowed one blocked punt this in 2013. VU averages 19.3 yards per kickoff return and 3.7 yards per punt return.
Punter Richie Leone is an All-American for the Cougars. He is averaging an impressive 43 yards per punt. Houston has allowed three punts to be blocked this season. Leone also is a kicker for the Cougars and has made 11-of-17 field goals. He is just 1-of-5 from over 40 yards and has had three field goals blocked. Kyle Bullard has made 5-of-5 field goals including a team long of 46 yards. The Cougars have relied on him for kicking duties over the past several games. The Cougars average 24.9 yards per kickoff return and 3.7 yards per punt return.
REMARKS: Vanderbilt should have a larger contingent of fans in Birmingham due to the school's closer proximity to the stadium. Vandy is second in the nation in fourth down conversions, converting on almost 78 percent. However, the 'Dores are ranked 99th in fourth down conversion defense, allowing 62 percent conversions. Under James Franklin Vanderbilt is 11-3 in games played from in November and later.
Houston is No. 1 in the nation in turnover margin, gaining 2.1 turnovers for every turnover by their opponents. The Commodores rank a not too shabby 30th in turnover margin. The Cougars may be miffed over all the complaining by Vanderbilt fans after the Commodores were snubbed by several bowls.
Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin has led the Commodores to three bowls in his first three seasons leading the Nashville school. Franklin has the best winning percentage of Vanderbilt coaches since Red Sanders who coached in the 1940s. Prior to Vanderbilt Franklin coached at Maryland, Kansas State, the Green Bay Packers to name a few.
Tony Levine is in his second season at Houston and has compiled a 14-11 record. Previous to being named the head man at Houston, Levine served stints with the Cougars as assistant head coach, special team's coordinator and tight ends/wide receiver's coach. Before Houston, Levine saw time as an assistant at Auburn, Louisville, Louisiana Tech and Texas State. He also coached receivers with the Carolina Panthers from 2006-07.