College Bowl Game:
BBVA Compass Bowl
Vanderbilt (8 - 4) 27 vs. Houston (8 - 4) 24: The records might be the same, but the schedules were drastically different. Vandy plays in the SEC East, not as tough as the other division in their conference, but it still provides plenty of challenges. Houston is in the American Conference, and while there are a few good teams in that league, the Cougars lost to the top three. I'm certain Houston will be coming into the game trying to make a statement against an SEC team while Vanderbilt will be attempting to win their second bowl game in a row. They've played in only six previous games and this will be their fourth in the last six seasons, so it's still a very big deal for the Commodores and coach James Franklin. The Cougars can put points on the board, averaging 34 points a game. But against Cincinnati, Louisville and UCF, they scored less than 15 points a game. I'll go with Vandy to use their SEC size and speed to come out with a win.
Kansas City (11 - 5) 17 @ Indianapolis (11 - 5) 24: Two weeks ago, the Colts went into Kansas City and defeated the Chiefs 25 - 3. At the time, KC was still in contention for a first round bye in the playoffs and laid an egg at home. Through their first 13 games, Indy had been up and down against a brutal non-division schedule, but have gotten hot since with three consecutive wins. The Chiefs opened the season 9 - 0, but since have only managed two wins against five losses. With wins against San Francisco, Seattle, Denver and Kansas City, the Colts definitely have what it takes to advance. Kansas City benefitted from a soft early schedule that hid their weaknesses, especially offensively. Alex Smith was very effective as a game manager early in the season, but that's a little easier when your defense is allowing you to play from in front. It's a bit different having to score to erase a deficit or stay in a game when it becomes a shootout. I'll take Indy to prevail at home to face Denver next week.
New Orleans (11 - 5) 27 @ Philadelphia (10 - 6) 31: We called the Eagles' division the NFC Least for much of the season, especially when it looked like eight or nine wins would be enough to get to the playoffs. But then the Eagles won eight of their last nine games to finish with double-digit wins and take clear control of the division. On the other hand, they only had one win and three losses against playoff teams, and the victory was against the Packers who were without QB Aaron Rodgers. The Saints have NEVER won a road playoff game, and their 3 - 5 record away from home this season wouldn't suggest that this will be the season they break that string. Even with a talented offense, New Orleans will have to come through in anything but dome-like conditions. Of course, 27 degrees at night isn't really that bad for Philadelphia, but it also isn't 72 with no wind. Regarding the X's and O's, the most disturbing statistic (aside from the weather) for the Saints is that they are only 19th in the league against the run, and the Eagles are first in rushing with a little over 160 yards a game. For me, that's the key to the game and the one that will result in a victory for Philadelphia.