Baylor and Vanderbilt both won their final regular season game to become bowl eligible with their 6th win. The Commodores finished the season on a money-making 5-0 ATS run, but were just 1-4 SU away from home this season with losses to three ranked teams. Baylor makes it back to a bowl game after winning just 1 game last season, and the Bears have some fan support as well with the 2018 Texas Bowl less than a 3 hour drive from Waco to Houston.
2018 Texas Bowl
Baylor Bears (6-6) vs. Vanderbilt Commodores (6-6)
Thursday, December 27th – Houston, TX 5:30pm ET (ESPN)
Betting Line: Vanderbilt -4 (55.5)
The Bears’ leading receiver Jalen Hurd will not play in the 2018 Texas Bowl because he underwent a knee procedure earlier in the month. Also, running back JaMycal Hasty’s status is questionable for the game because of a knee injury that’s kept him out of the last two outings. John Lovett has excelled in his stead, rushing for 180 yards during Hasty’s two-game absence. Quarterback Charlie Brewer has looked more poised and has good chemistry with WR Denzel Mims, who has 699 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns. Vanderbilt’s pass defense allowed an average of 283.0 passing yards over their last three games.
Vanderbilt RB Ke’Shawn Vaugh is also questionable as he’s missed the last four games with an arm injury. The Commodores will still try to run more and attack a Baylor run defense that allows 170.9 rushing yards per game but was 40 yards per game bettor over their last three contests. Three of Baylor’s last four opponents were against offensive teams much stronger than Vanderbilt, and the Bears limited Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Texas Tech to 31, 28 and 24 points and Baylor beat Oklahoma State and Texas Tech each as a 6-point underdog.
The line is reflecting Vanderbilt’s recent spread covering run and more injury concerns to Baylor. But the location and motivation of Baylor is a benefit, as is some ATS situations. Momentum is often lost with a big layoff before a bowl game, and streaking spread busting teams like Vanderbilt with more than 3 ATS wins in a row have not fared too well in bowl games. When facing a bowl team not on a similar streak of greater than 3 ATS wins, those teams are 10-27 ATS as a favorite up to -4.5.
Not a great bowl game to bet from a match-up and injury situation standpoint, and both teams appear to have similar motivation. But the Bears and Commodores appear closer to even than the 2018 Texas Bowl betting line suggests. Also, Baylor’s negative turnover differential (-8) to Vanderbilt’s positive margin (+8) impacted their results this season. Bet Baylor as an underdog if you’re taking a shot in the Texas Bowl.
2018 Texas Bowl Free Pick – Baylor Bears +4
Fairway Jay is a professional handicapper based out of Las Vegas. He focuses primarily on the four majors along with college football and college basketball. You can follow him on Twitter @FairwayJay.