For the third consecutive year, Vanderbilt is playing in a college football bowl game, and, I am fortunate to be able to say, for the third consecutive year, I will be in attendance. (My usual bowling companion is unavailable this time, but ALDLAND’s own Physguy will be joining me.) After two games– the Liberty and Music City Bowls– inside the state of Tennessee, Vanderbilt achieved their goal of playing a bowl game outside their home state when they accepted an invitation to play in the Compass Bowl in Birmingham.
My preview post of all of this year’s bowl games has been called “Pulitzer-worthy,” and while my prediction record has proved middling at best, I stand by my prediction for the Compass Bowl:
Vanderbilt will make it three bowl appearances in a row when they play Houston in the Compass Bowl on January 4 in Birmingham. Considering they’ve only played in six bowl games ever before this season, that’s a pretty remarkable achievement. This is their fourth bowl game since 2008, and they bring a 2-1 postseason record from those games into this one. Mobile backup quarterback Patton Robinette will start the game for Vandy on account of starter Austyn Carta-Samuels’ season-ending injury. Carta-Samuels played his last three games this season– all VU wins– with a torn ACL. Another Vandy note: Commodore players donated their bowl per-diem stipends to a children’s charity. Houston has had a resurgence in recent years, but they aren’t the same without Kevin Sumlin, Case Keenum, Clyde, and Olajuwon. The Commodores should register another nine-win season.
The Compass Bowl has been known as the Birmingham Bowl and the PapaJohns.com Bowl, and it has been played annually in Birmingham since 2006. (Birmingham’s bowl history long predates the Compass Bowl, though, as it has been the host of the Dixie Bowl (1947-8), the Hall of Fame Classic (1977-85, now the Outback Bowl in Tampa), and the All-American Bowl (1986-90).) Pittsburgh has appeared in the Compass Bowl three times; no other team has appeared more than once.
Vanderbilt’s opponent, Houston, also finished the year with an 8-4 record, posting wins over Rutgers and South Florida, as well as a shutout win against SMU. The Cougars struggled in the second half of the season, however, while the Commodores finished strong. Tomorrow marks the first-ever meeting between these two teams. It also will be the last-ever game for SEC-leading receiver Jordan Matthews in a Vanderbilt uniform.
As always, keep track of our coverage here and on Twitter. The game starts at 1:00 Eastern on ESPN.