WKU should be rebranded The Greatest Show on FieldTurf, since it’s fourth in the nation with a scoring average of 41.8 points. Over its past three games, the Hilltoppers are second (at 49) only to UCLA’s 49.3 output.
That’s what’s barreling toward UTSA, which will need to rely on a rushing attack that has tailed off by more than 50 yards a game recently.
To their detriment, the world latched onto the Roadrunners against Southern Miss, triggering a slide that continues in this Conference USA title game.
NCAAF · Fri (12/16) @ 11:35am ET
|Legion Field Stadium, Birmingham, Alabama|
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (8-4, 5-6 ATS)
WKU awoke on Oct. 9, when it lost at home to UTSA, 52-46. That was the Toppers’ fourth defeat in their first five games, but they fashioned perhaps the finest rally in the country to win their next seven games.
That was the only time in four occasions that a WKU total in the 70s finished OVER that mark. From then on, it didn’t allow more than 21 points to anybody.
Call third-year coach Tyson Helton one savvy boss, for he brought Zach Kittley in from Houston Baptist to be the Toppers’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, and Kittley brought quarterback Bailey Zappe (pronounced ZAP-ee) from Baptist.
And Zappe brought a wealth of receivers from Baptist. Hence, Zappe, against UTSA, will become Division-I football’s 15th quarterback to throw for 5,000 yards in a season.
Expect Zappe to star in this CBSSN broadcast. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound native of Victoria, Texas, between Houston and Corpus Christi, leads the country with 4,968 passing yards and 52 aerial touchdowns.
Against UTSA two months ago, he threw for a season-best 523 yards, with five TDs and one interception, in that entertaining defeat. That came in a five-game stretch in which he threw 271 passes, for 19 TDs and only two picks.
He’s thrown for 400 yards five times. What’s more, his line is peerless, since Zappe’s sack rate of 2.29% is the lowest in the land. WKU throws it 51 times a game, second-highest in the nation. UTSA knows exactly what’s coming.
UTSA Roadrunners (11-1, 7-4 ATS)
It had all been clicking so well for the ’Runners, until Nov. 13. They had won their first eight games, covering seven. Then bettors pounded a 29-point line north of 32, against Southern Miss, and UTSA escaped with a 27-17 victory.
The three-game no-cover streak it brings into the C-USA championship game includes an ugly 45-23 defeat at North Texas last week.
Quarterback Frank Harris had been dependable, but his team’s success can’t solely rest on his left arm. Against Southern Miss, UTSA ran for 143 yards, but that got cut to 52 in a 34-31 victory over Alabama-Birmingham.
It accumulated 205 on the ground at North Texas, when coach Jeff Traylor subbed quarterbacks Josh Adkins and Eddie Lee Marburger into the game for an inconsistent Harris. The Roadrunners’ offense is off-balance.
After hitting triple figures in rushing yardage seven times in his first nine games, tailback Sincere McCormick has only been in double digits in his past three, coinciding conveniently with his team’s spiral.
UTSA boasted of a top-25 national rushing game. McCormick’s 263 carries are fifth in college football.
Maybe those are the perils of a true freshman hitting an imaginary wall, but UTSA needs him to chew up clock and yardage against Western Kentucky to keep Zappe off the Alamodome’s FusionH XP2 synthetic turf.
Western Kentucky At UTSA Pick
The Roadrunners’ spiral continues. They’ve yielded 697 total rushing yards to their past three foes, including a whopping 340 to North Texas last week. This week, they get Zappe’d through the air.
Two models show WKU winning by nine and two points, respectively, and it possesses a tidy revenge angle. That total is too high to flirt with, though, with UTSA’s offensive issues, so the wise move is on the Hilltoppers.
Our Pick: Western Kentucky -1 (PointsBet)