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The Cincinnati Bearcats were the co-Big East champs this year, but they could be up against it when they have to play a de facto road game at the Liberty Bowl against the Vanderbilt Commodores. Check out our 2011 Liberty Bowl free picks for the game on December 31st!
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Liberty Bowl Matchup: Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Vanderbilt Commodores
Liberty Bowl Date/Time: Saturday, December 31st, 3:30 ET
Liberty Bowl Location: Liberty Bowl Stadium, Memphis, TN
Liberty Bowl Odds: Vanderbilt -1.5
Liberty Bowl Total: 48.5
Liberty Bowl TV Coverage: ABC
The Bearcats and the Commodores both overachieved this season, though both teams took significantly different paths to reach this point in the campaign. UC took advantage of a very weak schedule and an incredibly weak conference to finish up the year at 9-3, but it was passed over for one of the elite bowl games due to that scheduling. Vandy is never really seen as a team that is a threat in the SEC, and it only has one bowl win coming into this year. The Commodores took their lumps against the best teams in the conference, but when push came to shove, they weren’t nearly a pushover this season, especially when they played at home, and that’s why they could be a nuisance in this game for the Bearcats.
The news for Cincinnati QB Zach Collaros is getting better and better as the days are progressing. It is starting to look as though he will be ready to go after suffering an ankle injury against the West Virginia Mountaineers over a month ago, and that will be a huge boost for an offense that was suspect at times all season long. Collaros has seemingly digressed over the years, but he is still a viable quarterback and could do some real damage. However, the real key to this team is going to be the success of RB Isaiah Pead. Pead rumbled for 1,110 yards and had 14 total trips to the end zone this year, though he is going to have his work cut out for him against a Vandy defense that was one of the more unheralded units in the SEC this season.
Of course, the Bearcats have a great defense as well, ranking No. 6 in the country against the rush. That would seemingly bode poorly for the Commodores, who really only throw the ball when they are behind in down and distance. However, we have to remember that the teams that do run the ball quite a bit in the Big East, such as the Pitt Panthers, South Florida Bulls, and Connecticut Huskies, all had more success against this defense than a lot of the pure passing teams did. Vandy can push the ball up the field when it has to, but RB Zac Stacy is the man that really has to make the big time difference for it to keep moving the pigskin.
We just look at this Cincinnati team and we see its one game this year against a Big East team… The Tennessee Volunteers absolutely took the Bearcats behind the shed in Week 2 with a 45-23 defeat. Add that to the fact that the Dores scored a huge 41-7 victory over a relatively comparable Wake Forest Demon Deacons team in a road game at the end of the year. The makings are really set for the de facto hosts in this one to come out strong and to steal their second bowl victory in team history. The Bearcats are just up against it too hard to be able to deal with a sneaky Vanderbilt team that earned its way to a bowl game in spite of its 6-6 record.
Free Liberty Bowl Pick: Vanderbilt -1.5
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