WHO: 8-4 Vanderbilt (SEC) vs. 8-4 Houston (AAC)
WHAT: BBVA Compass Bowl (8th year)
WHERE: Legion Field, Birmingham, Ala.
WHEN: Jan. 4 at 1 p.m. ET
WHY: For Vanderbilt, this bowl business is suddenly becoming old hat. The Commodores are in their third consecutive bowl after making it just four previous times in their history. This is the first time Vandy — winner of five of its last six to close out the regular season — will be playing in a bowl after Jan. 1.
The Cougars, meanwhile, are looking for their first bowl victory since 2009 and are trying to snap out of a late-season funk that saw them lose three of their last four.
Vandy doesn’t shine in any particular area. Its offense is ranked 94th in yards per game and is 66th in points per game, but the Commodores are opportunistic, play tough defense (24th nationally in total defense) and don’t hurt themselves. Quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels has 2,268 passing yards with 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions and has also rushed for five scores. His main target is all-star wide out Jordan Matthews, who has 107 catches for 1,334 yards and five touchdowns. He catches everything he touches. Leading rusher Jerron Seymour has 635 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Houston is led by freshman quarterback John O’Korn, who has 2,889 passing yards with 26 TDs and just eight picks. Many of his passes went to wide out Deontay Greenberry, who caught 76 balls for 1,106 yards and 10 scores. But the calling card for these Cougars is a stingy scoring defense. Houston is 13th in scoring defense (20 ppg) despite finishing next-to-last in the American Athletic Conference in total yards allowed. Junior linebacker Efrem Oliphant leads the team with 123 tackles and 12.5 tackles for loss while linebacker Derrick Matthews has 12 tackles for loss and a team-leading seven sacks.
With a victory over Houston, Vandy can tie its program record for most wins in a season. However, a win for the Cougars over an SEC team would be a great way to cap their season. Look for the Commodores to be their usual scrappy selves and pull this one out.
PREDICTION: Vanderbilt 27, Houston 20
While everybody on the Palouse is worried about Mike Leach following athletic director Bill Moos to Nebraska this week, a more pressing concern for Washington State is getting back on track and beating Colorado on Saturday night.
That might be just a tad bit tougher now because the school has suspended leading receiver Tavares Martin Jr.’s for one game following his actions subsequent to the team’s loss at Cal last Friday. The reason he won’t suit up when the Buffs roll into Pullman? It seems he got a tad angry, throwing a bit of a temper tantrum and skipping a practice.
“He was a little angry, saying things hadn’t gone his way the last couple of games. He broke a team rule and needs to be punished for that,” the receiver’s father, Tavares Martin Sr., told The Seattle Times. “He just made a mistake, and he had to pay a price for it. It was a miscommunication between him and the coaches. He was upset. He said he felt like he should have been more involved in that game.”
Martin Jr. leads the team in receiving yards (502) and touchdowns (seven) after starting all seven games this season. Despite that, he had just three catches in the Cougars’ 37-3 loss in Berkeley that caused them to tumble out of the top 10.
The Florida native reportedly apologized for his actions and was placed on the scout team in practices prior to playing Colorado. It seems the stiff lesson is being learned quickly though as he is expected to be back for Wazzu’s game at Arizona next Saturday — likely with a much different attitude.
The greatest intersectional rivalry in college football between USC and Notre Dame is turning into a potential battle of walking wounded on defense. The latest name on the injury list? Irish linebacker Greer Martini.
The starter and team leader has been dealing with a knee injury he suffered in practice and while there was some thought he could be back for Saturday’s massive showdown with the team’s rivals from Los Angeles, that appears not to be the case. Indianapolis Star beat writer Laken Litman reported on Thursday afternoon that Brian Kelly confirmed after practice Martini would miss the game and that he had a surgical procedure to clean up an unspecified meniscus injury on his knee.
Martini is a captain on the team and the third leading tackler on the defense. In his absence, junior Te’von Coney likely slides into the starting lineup at linebacker. The good news might be that Martini could be back for an equally important game against N.C. State that could loom large in any College Football Playoff discussion next month.
The Trojans are dealing with the loss of defensive tackle Josh Fatu and linebacker Porter Gustin for this week’s trip to South Bend as well so both sides have a number of injuries that could hamper their ability to stop the run on Saturday. Given that the game will feature two of the best tailbacks in the country in Ronald Jones and Josh Adams, things could turn into a track meet come kickoff time on NBC.
It seems the tumultuous offseason that Mark Dantonio has experienced dating back to last year is not ending with the 2017 campaign being well underway for his Spartans. That’s because the Michigan State head coach is dealing with yet another headache, this time caused by star running back LJ Scott. The Lansing State Journal reports that Scott was arrested on Wednesday for driving on a suspended license.
Now you might say, oh that’s not that big of a deal all things considered. Generally you’d be correct depending on the circumstances. Yet in this case it kind of is a big deal because this is the seventh time — yes, seven times — Scott has been arrested for the same general offense. So yeah.
Per the LSJ:
‘Scott, 21, was arrested and later released on a personal recognizance bond, East Lansing Police spokesman Lt. Chad Connelly said Thursday. He declined to comment further because Scott has not yet been arraigned.
The charge carries up to a year in jail if Scott is convicted because he has at least one prior conviction on the same charge, which is typically a 93-day misdemeanor.’
What might be worse is that the junior has been cited for the same issue across two different states, including Michigan and his native Ohio. The first instance happened back in February 2016 according to the paper, but charges were dropped after a citation was issued and a fine paid. Scott got caught later in March 2016 when he was speeding, another time in April 2016 after being involved in a car crash, and yet again in July 2016 by campus police.
But wait, there’s more.
Scott was pulled over and charged again this past March and another time as recently as July. The LSJ does not have information as to why his license was suspended in the first place but we can offer a few guesses.
What might be even more infuriating for Dantonio and the coaching staff is that Scott just posted a career high against Minnesota (194 yards) and seemed to finally emerge as the primary ball carrier over senior Gerald Holmes and fellow junior Madre London.
The school had not released a statement regarding the matter but it’s probably safe to assume that the Spartans will be without Scott on Saturday when they play Indiana.
If you wanted to see BYU and East Carolina play some more football, congrats because this is your lucky day.
Prior to the Cougars’ trip to Greenville this week, the two schools announced on Thursday that they will be adding another two game set to their ongoing series. As these schedule announcements usually do, the dates are well into the future — with a game in Provo for Oct. 15, 2022 between the two teams and a return date for Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium back east on Oct. 19, 2024.
“We have enjoyed the opportunity to play teams from the American Athletic Conference, including the current series with East Carolina,” BYU athletics director Tom Holmoe said in a release. “ECU is a great matchup and it was an easy decision to schedule another series with them. It provides our team with a unique travel opportunity, and it gives Cougar fans who live in the southeast another opportunity to see us play.”
The two sides are wrapping up the first two game series on Saturday as BYU travels to East Carolina in a game where the teams combined record is a whopping 2-12. The Cougars won 45-38 last year in Utah during the first meeting.
The upcoming series gives ECU three non-conference opponents for both 2022 and 2024 as a result, and becomes the first team scheduled by BYU for the 2024 slate.