In the past, most of Vanderbilt’s seasons ended with a whimper in November. But James Franklin’s arrival as coach has ended the losing trend.
The Commodores dominated Wake Forest in the teams’ regular-season finale the past two years, winning 41-7 in Winston-Salem, N.C., two years ago and blasting the Demon Deacons 55-21 as 11½-point favorites last season.
Franklin’s team covered the line by 55 combined points in the two victories. Vanderbilt is a 14-point home favorite in today’s game in Nashville, Tenn. Again, the Commodores are the play.
Since Franklin took over, Vanderbilt has compiled a 9-2 spread record in 11 games as a home favorite. The Commodores are 14-5 ATS at home on Franklin’s watch whether favored or in the underdog role.
Vanderbilt has won three consecutive games and four of five, and this is the first season it has defeated Florida and Georgia.
But there have been a plethora of firsts since Franklin was hired. Another is that Vanderbilt is destined for a third straight bowl appearance. Before Franklin, the Commodores had been to only three bowls since 1974.
This selection is also based on going against Wake Forest. I continue to think highly of Jim Grobe as a coach, but he has a tough job. The Demon Deacons are in the midst of their fifth straight losing season.
Wake Forest is in the midst of a four-game losing streak, and its offense has not been the same since losing standout wide receiver Michael Campanaro to a season-ending injury.
Vanderbilt should batter Wake Forest in blowout fashion for a third straight season.
Four more plays for today (home team in CAPS):
■ MICHIGAN (+16½) over Ohio State — The Wolverines were home underdogs only once previously under coach Brady Hoke, winning outright over Notre Dame two seasons ago. In 37 games coached by Hoke, Michigan has lost by more than 14 points just twice. This is a save-the-season type of game for the Wolverines, so expect a determined effort by the home team. There’s nothing Michigan would rather do than deny the Buckeyes a chance to win the national championship. I made Ohio State a 10-point favorite.
■ Duke (+5½) over NORTH CAROLINA — With a victory over the Tar Heels, the Blue Devils can reach the Atlantic Coast Conference title game. Duke has won seven consecutive games and is 4-0 ATS on the road. Anthony Boone, still unbeaten as a starting quarterback, had one of his best games at Wake Forest last week.
■ Georgia (-3) over GEORGIA TECH — With senior Aaron Murray sidelined, Hutson Mason will make his first career start at quarterback for the Bulldogs. Mason had a stellar career at Lassiter High School, 25 miles north of Tech’s campus in Atlanta. The fourth-year junior has a 5-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio in limited playing time. Mason will be adequate. The main motivator for backing Georgia is the presence of running back Todd Gurley. The Bulldogs have won four in a row over the Yellow Jackets, dealing out woodshed treatment the past two seasons.
■ Baylor (-13½) over TEXAS CHRISTIAN — Look for the Bears to bounce back in a big way and give an inspired effort in honor of coach Art Briles, whose brother died this week.
Baylor is 9-1 ATS in its past 10 games as a double-digit favorite. With running back Lache Seastrunk set to return after missing two games with a groin injury, the offense will get a big boost. Behind big performances from Seastrunk and quarterback Bryce Petty, the Bears should roll by three touchdowns.
Last week: 1-4 against the spread
Brian Edwards of VegasInsider.com and BrianEdwardsSports.com is providing college football analysis for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.