5 Reasons to Watch the BBVA Compass Bowl

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BBVA Compass Bowl: Houston Cougars vs. Vanderbilt Commodores

Compass
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY SPORTS

While the BBVA Compass Bowl may be one of the more oddly timed games of the bowl season, being played after New Year's Day, but before the BCS Championship Game, this year's edition has plenty of interest for viewers and fans alike. The Houston Cougars and Vanderbilt Commodores meet in the Compass Bowl, both seeking to finish the season with a 9-4 record. The game will be played Jan. 4 at 1 p.m. EST on ESPN.

Such a season for Vanderbilt used to be unheard of, as the perennial doormats of the SEC were usually afterthoughts come bowl season. All that has changed under the direction of head coach James Franklin, who is an impressive 23-15 at Vanderbilt entering this, the final game of his third season at the helm in Nashville. He's even brought the Commodores to respectability in the SEC, posting an 11-13 record. A win over Houston on Jan. 4 would put Vanderbilt at 9-4 for the second straight season. Prior to Franklin's arrival before the 2011 season, Vanderbilt had just one winning season (7-6 in 2008) since 1982, when the Commodores went 8-4. Back-to-back nine-win seasons would be a first in program history.

Houston is probably most famous for quarterbacks like Andre Ware, David Klingler and Case Keenum, guiding teams that would regularly scored 50 or 60 points a game (and 95 once). This year's Houston club is nothing like those teams, but the Cougars have a quality air attack and will put up points. The Cougars (8-4) average nearly 34 points per game and about 285 yards through the air. Freshman quarterback John O'Korn threw for 2,889 yards this season, with an impressive touchdown to interception ratio of 26 to eight.

A win would put the cap on successful season for either of these teams. Both teams have standout wide receivers and can put up points, so the game should be entertaining. Here are five reasons to watch the BBVA Compass Bowl between the Houston Cougars and the Vanderbilt Commodores.

Ed Morgans is an ACC Basketball Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @writered21 and add him to your network on Google.

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5. Vanderbilt Safety Kenny Ladler vs. Houston Run Game

Ladler
Kim Klement-USA TODAY SPORTS

Vanderbilt safety Kenny Ladler, who was a second-team All-SEC pick, led Vanderbilt with 61 unassisted tackles and 87 total tackles for the season. While most of his responsibilities might be deep coverage to prevent Houston wide receiver Deontay Greenberry from catching long passes, Ladler may also be called upon to help keep Houston's rushing attack in check. The Cougars are only 93rd in the country in rushing yards, and if Ladler and the rest of the Commodores' defense can reduce Houston to a one-dimensional offense by just passing, that will be a big plus for Vanderbilt.

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4. Houston RB Ryan Jackson Must Have a Big Game

Jackson
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY SPORTS

While Houston has a strong passing game, the Cougars will need to get a big game out of running back Ryan Jackson to beat Vanderbilt in the Compass Bowl. Jackson has run for 655 yards and six touchdowns this season, but 384 of those yards and four of those touchdowns came in Houston's first four games of the season. Jackson did put up 62 yards on seven carries in Houston's 34-0 win over SMU to close the regular season. If Jackson can at least give Houston a bit of offensive balance, it will be a key to a Cougars victory.

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3. Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews

Matthews
Jim Brown-USA TODAY SPORTS

The best offensive player in the Compass Bowl is Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews. The 6-foot-3 senior caught 107 passes this season for 1,334 yards. Matthews is the absolute top target in the Commodores' passing attack, having caught 10 passes or more in five games this season -- including the last three. In those three games, Matthews has caught 36 passes for 399 yards and Vanderbilt won all three.

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2. Houston WR Deontay Greenberry

Greenberry
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY SPORTS

Not to be outdone by Matthews, Houston sophomore wide receiver Deontay Greenberry is the kind of deep threat that can completely ruin Vanderbilt's defense and turn the Compass Bowl in favor of the Cougars. Greenberry has caught 76 passes for 1,106 yards, with 10 touchdowns. He was particularly impressive in Houston's 49-14 win at Rutgers Oct. 26, catching an 83-yard touchdown as part of a 168-yard, three-touchdown day. Greenberry did suffer a concussion late in the season.

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1. Is This James Franklin's Last Game as Vanderbilt Head Coach?

Franklin
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY SPORTS

The success that James Franklin has had at Vanderbilt makes him a very attractive coaching target for many programs across the country. Franklin is only 41 years old, still very young by high-level college coaching standards. With Mack Brown out at Texas, a coaching carousel is sure to start. A win over Houston in the Compass Bowl would give Franklin another reason to be sought after as potential openings at Penn State, Louisville and elsewhere open up.

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