Zach Collaros, shown here against Pitt, hopes to return from a broken ankle to lead Cincinnati into the Liberty Bowl. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

Liberty Bowl-Cincinnati vs Vanderbilt-Pick and Analysis

In what should be a defensive struggle, the Bearcats of Cincinnati face off against the Commodores of Vanderbilt in the Liberty Bowl on New Years’ Eve at 3:30. Vanderbilt has bounced back from back-to-back 2-10 seasons as the SEC doormat to become bowl eligible and will match their stingy defense against Cincinatti’s in a close, low-scoring game.

Bowl Breakdown: Both offenses are fueled by their own unique form of the Zach-attack. Cincinnati will welcome back a quick-recovering Zach Collaros who has returned to full practices and should be back to start the bowl game. Cincinnati’s dual threat QB will be a vast improvement over Muchie Legeaux who struggled while Collaros was out with a broken ankle. RB Isaiah Pead will be one of the Bearcats to welcome him back since that will keep Vandy from stacking the box against the 1100 yard rusher with 11 TDs. The other Zac is Vanderbilt’s RB Zac Stacy who finished with 1100 yards and 13 TD’s of his own as he was the focal point of the Vandy offense and recently has kicked it into another gear scoring 8 TDs in his last 6 going over 100 yards 4 times and over 180 twice. The real reason these teams are in the bowl situation they are though is on the other side of the ball where they boast two or the best defenses in the country. Cincy really gets after the QB and leads the nation in sacks per game and tackles for a loss per game. Their leader Derek Wolfe is a beast off the edge and they ranked seventh in the country against the run, giving up 92.6 yards per game. The Vandy defense is equally as good ranking #19 in yards allowed, giving up 324.6 yards per game, and #27 in points allowed-20 per game, and that’s facing a brutal SEC schedule. The difference-maker in this one for me is Collaros; his return should be enough to put the Bearcats over the top in this hard-fought bowl game where the first team to 20 will probably win. The Bearcats haven’t won a bowl game since 2007, so the players will be looking to get their first bowl win in their tenure at Cincinnati.

Pro Prospects: Isaiah Pead-Cin-RB: Pead topped 1,000 yards rushing for the 2nd season in a row for the Bearcats and should be one of the top 5 RB’s off the board. Probably round 2 for this all-purpose shifty speed back..Derek Wolfe-Cin-DL:Wolfe will probably go off the board not long after Pead. He’s a great pash-rusher who would be well-suited in a 3-4. He’s a late round 2 selection to a team like New England or New Orleans, or even the Texans or 49ers as they look to bulk up their pass rush…Chris Marve-Van-LB:Marve is a Sr. Lineback who has shown a lot of leadership and gained experience in his years at Vandy. He’s not an elite speed guy but is very good in coverage and has good instincts to get where the ball is. He’s a round 4-5 pick..Casey Hayward-Van-CB: Hayward is climbing the draft boards of many as he is a lockdown corner who has played all the best SEC WR and shown well. He’s great against the run and is a very physical corner with good ball skills. He’ll be a great value in the mid-to-late 2nd round

Editor’s Note: This article is part of our ongoing series for our Bowl Mania. You can find the same type of analysis for the  Kraft Fight Hunger, Meineke Car Care Bowl of TexasMusic City, PinstripeArmed Forces, AlamoChamps SportsHolidayMilitary,  and the Sun Bowls. Or check out the  IndependencePoinsettiaBeef ‘O’ Brady’sLittle Caesars BelkNew OrleansMAACO Las VegasNew MexicoHawaii, and Idaho Potato Bowls to see how accurate our breakdown was.

Tags: Bowl Mania Bowl Picks Casey Hayward Cincinnati College Football Picks Isaiah Pead Liberty Bowl NFL Draft Vanderbilt

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