Vanderbilt is bowling for the third straight year under head coach James Franklin -- a first for the SEC school -- and will face AAC opponent Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl. Television coverage will begin at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN.
The Commodores went 8-4 this season, with a win over Georgia standing as their only victory over a bowl team. Their other games against bowl-eligible competition? Losses to Ole Miss, South Carolina, Missouri and Texas A&M. Vanderbilt sports a strong defense and has an excellent pair of playmakers in wide receivers Jordan Matthews and Jonathan Krause.
Houston started the season 5-0 with a win over Rice, and was a one-point loss to BYU away from an 8-0 start and likely a high ranking in the polls. The Cougars fell back to earth when facing the elite of the AAC, dropping close games to UCF, Louisville and Cincinnati, none by more than a touchdown. They finished the season with a 34-0 drubbing of SMU and will look for their ninth win in Birmingham, Ala.
Rankings and records: Neither team is ranked. Both went 8-4 during the regular season -- Vanderbilt finished fourth in the SEC East with a 4-4 conference record, and Houston was fourth in the AAC with a 5-3 mark in conference play. This is the first matchup between these two schools.
Vegas: The Commodores are three-point favorites. The over/under is 53.5 points.
Weather: Mid 40s.
Three names to know
John O'Korn. The true freshman quarterback had a phenomenal debut season for the Cougars, throwing 26 touchdown passes against eight interceptions and averaging more than seven yards per attempt.
Jordan Matthews. The Vanderbilt senior caught 107 passes this season for 1,334 yards and five touchdowns -- all team highs.
Jonathan Krause. Krause beat out Matthews in one area -- yards per catch, at an impressive 17.2 clip. The senior is a serious deep threat and will help out quarterback Patton Robinette, who will take over for the injured Austyn Carta-Samuels.
Two things at stake
Vanderbilt feels it should have been rewarded with a better bowl game, and will try to prove it with a bowl victory over a solid Houston team.
The AAC certainly has its doubters, and a win for the Cougars over an SEC opponent would go a long way toward countering that.
How to witness
TV: 1 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Online streaming: WatchESPN.
Location: Birmingham, Ala.
Stadium: Legion Field -- capacity 71,594
Tickets: Find available seats here.
Last year's score: Ole Miss 38, Pittsburgh 17
Last year's attendance: 59,326
Last year's TV rating: 1.9
Last year's payout for each school: $1 million for SEC, $900,000 for AAC (Big East at the time)
Team with the most all-time appearances: Pittsburgh (1-2)
Team with the most all-time wins: Seven tied with one