Posted by Chip Patterson
VANDERBILT WILL WIN IF: Zac Stacy and Jordan Rodgers can find success on the ground. One way or another, the Commodores need pick up yards on the ground against a stout Cincinnati defense. The Bearcats rank in the Top 10 nationally in rushing defense, giving up just 92.67 yards per game. But they did not have to face many rushers as strong as Vanderbilt's Zac Stacy, the SEC's third-leading rusher with 1,136 yards this season. Stacy has been reliable all season, and quarterback Jordan Rodgers has shown an impressive ability to make plays with his feet since taking over as the starter midseason. Both Stacy and Rodgers need to get comfortable and produce early, or else the Bearcats will be able to key in on their attack with hopes of holding another opponent under 100 yards rushing.
CINCINNATI WILL WIN IF: They take care of the ball on offense. One of Vanderbilt's strengths has been their ability to create turnovers at opportune times. Improving the turnover margin has been one of the biggest differences between the four-win 2010 squad and the Co-Big East champions this year. The Bearcats' best chance offensively is to stay multiple and stay productive, constantly keeping that Commodores defense on their heels. The unit needs to hit a rhythm and get quarterback Zach Collaros rolling in his first game back since breaking his ankle on Nov. 12. The fastest way to disrupt that rhythm is to end a drive by giving the ball away.
X-FACTOR: Zach Collaros' health. The biggest story heading into this year's Liberty Bowl is also the biggest unknown. Collaros clearly wants to play his final game in a Bearcat uniform, and the Cincinnati staff appears to believe he can give that injured ankle a run. The all-conference senior will likely be able to throw from the pocket, but one of Collaros' greatest strengths is his mobility. How his ankle is able to handle rolling out of the pocket, and possibly scrambling downfield will play a huge role in how aggressively the Vanderbilt defense can bring pressure. If Collaros is a sitting duck in the pocket, it will be a green light for an opportunistic defense to try and create a big play.
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Keys to the Game: Liberty Bowl
Posted on: December 29, 2011 10:35 pm
Edited on: December 29, 2011 10:37 pm
Tags: Big East, Brandon Barden, Butch Jones, Casey Haryward, Chip Patterson, Chris Boyd, Chris Marve, Cincinnati, D.J. Woods, Derek Wolfe, DJ Woods, James Franklin, JK Schaffer, Jordan Matthews, Jordan Rodgers, Liberty Bowl, Liberty Bowl Preview, Liberty Bowl Projections, Munchie Legaux, SEC, Vanderbilt, Zac Stacy, Zach Collaros