2011 Liberty Bowl Cincinnati vs Vanderbilt Odds, Free Picks and Predictions on ABC 12/31/11

Free College Football Bowl Picks and Spreads: Cincinnati vs Vanderbilt 2011 Liberty Bowl Vegas Odds, Free Picks, and Expert Predictions on ABC 12/31/11: After a 4-8 season in 2010-11, the Cincinnati Bearcats (9-3) turned things round this year and nearly went to a BCS bowl. Instead, they settled for being co-Big East champs and a trip to the Autozone Liberty Bowl to face the Vanderbilt Commodores (6-6) Saturday afternoon. The Commodores struggled during SEC play, but they did knock off Big East opponent Connecticut on their way to becoming bowl eligible. Vanderbilt will look to stay perfect against the Big East and take out the Bearcats, and the Commodores are 1 ½-point favorites in the matchup.

One of the bigger storylines leading up to the game has been the health of Cincinnati quarterback Zach Collaros. He missed the second half of the year with a broken ankle, but after practicing in recent weeks, he should be under center Saturday. The news couldn’t be better for the Bearcats, considering Collaros is one of the most dynamic QBs in the conference. After leading the Big East in passing yards and touchdowns last season, he had 22 total scores when he went down with the injury this year. Cincinnati averaged more than 33 points per game this year, and with Collaros under center, that total is more than obtainable.

While Collaros’ health has been hot topic, this matchup actually features two of the better defenses in the country. Both teams are giving up less than 21 points per game, and Vanderbilt ranks inside the top 20 in terms of yards allowed. Meanwhile, the Bearcats’ unit averaged more than 3.5 sacks per game and allowed less than 100 yards per game on the ground to opponents.

In this particular matchup, the Cincinnati defense may have the upper hand. The Commodores’ offense relies heavily on running back Zac Stacy, who ran for more than 1,100 yards and 13 scores, while averaging 6.2 yards per carry. If the stout Cincinnati rush defense can slow down Stacy, Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers will be forced to step up. He has struggled this season, throwing nine touchdowns and nine interceptions, while completing just 51.5 percent of his passes. With the Bearcats one of the best teams in the nation at pressuring QBs, Rodgers could be in for a long day if he has to drop back and pass on a regular basis.

The X-factor in the game could be Cincinnati running back Isaiah Pead. He had a breakout campaign this season, running for more than 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns. More importantly, he provides a nice counterpunch to Collaros and the spread passing game. Facing a stingy Commodores’ defense, the Bearcats should benefit from being able to attack in a variety of ways.

In the end, the Bearcats appear to be a tough matchup for the Commodores. The strength of the Bearcats’ defense matches perfectly with the strength of the Vanderbilt offense. Meanwhile, the explosive Cincinnati offense is going to be healthy as it has been in months. With its aggressive pass rush likely causing problems for the Rodgers and a mediocre Vanderbilt passing game, Cincinnati should be hold the Commodores offense in check. The dynamic Bearcats offense should take care of the rest.

Prediction: Cincinnati Bearcats (+2)Cover the Spread

Free College Football Picks and NCAAF Predictions: Cincinnati +2 to cover the spread

2011 Liberty Bowl: Cincinnati vs Vanderbilt
Date: 12/31/11
Time: 3:30 PM EST on ABC
Vegas Odds Favorite: Vanderbilt -2 Total: Over/Under 49

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