Western Kentucky vs. UTSA Odds, Picks: 2 Bets for This C-USA Championship Rematch
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images. Pictured: Austin Reed (Western Kentucky)
- Western Kentucky takes on UTSA in a battle between last year's Conference USA Championship game.
- The teams look very different, though, as Bailey Zappe is on to the NFL and Sincere McCormick has moved on.
- Collin Wilson previews the game and offers up his best bet.
Western Kentucky vs. UTSA Odds
The Alamodome will set the scene for a rematch of last season’s Conference USA Championship game.
The high-scoring extravaganza saw more than 1,100 total yards thanks to Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe throwing for 577 yards and UTSA running back Sincere McCormick going for 204 yards on the ground.
Both Zappe and McCormick have moved on, but both offenses remain potent heading into this clash.
Western Kentucky and UTSA are both 3-2 straight up and against the spread, and the Roadrunners have gone over the total in all five of their games.
Despite three turnovers vs. Middle Tennessee last week, UTSA posted nearly 600 yards in a victory.
Meanwhile, Western Kentucky comes off of a loss to Troy, as it allowed the Trojans to score 34 points on seven trips beyond the 40-yard line.
Each team will be searching for a win to keep pace with North Texas in a division-less Conference USA.
Head coach Tyson Helton stated that the loss to Troy “went about how I thought it would go.”
Although the Hilltoppers are still an elite passing offense — similar to last season — there are cracks in the armor worn by Big Red. The loss of Zappe — along with offensive coordinator Zach Kittley — has forced a drop off in several areas.
Western Kentucky is converting just 37% of its third downs, a contrast from 47% last season.
In 77 red-zone trips, the 2021 Hilltoppers offense scored in all but seven tries. This season, Western Kentucky has failed to score in the red zone on six of 26 attempts, with a drop in touchdown rate.
Austin Reed with an absolute DIME 🎯
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) September 24, 2022
The numbers for transfer quarterback Austin Reed look great on the surface (only four interceptions with 17 touchdowns), but a closer look exposes 11 Big Time Throws against 10 Turnover Worthy Plays.
A dip in Finishing Drives has put the focus on more production from the defense.
Helton is fielding similar numbers in stopping opposing offenses, a long shot from the menacing Group of Five units from just a few years ago.
The strength of this defense comes with a coverage rank within the top 50.
While Western Kentucky has fallen off in generating Havoc and tackling fundamentals, Kahlef Hailassie has been ambiguous at the corner position. Hailassie has been targeted 38 times so far this season, forcing five incompletions but also giving up 262 yards.
The corner is second among all players in FBS when it comes to pass-play stops, a tackle that constitutes a failure for the offense, per PFF.
Head coach Jeff Traylor was tasked with replacing one of the most productive running backs in the nation in McCormick.
Arkansas transfer Trelon Smith and fifth-year senior Brenden Brady have yet to fill that role. The Roadrunners are outside the top 50 in Rushing Success Rate and have dipped to a Line Yards rank of 66th.
The running back tandem has produced just 21 missed tackles, with neither averaging more than 2.5 yards after contact.
Thankfully, quarterback Frank Harris supplies more productivity on the ground than almost any quarterback in the nation.
"[Frank Harris] told us grew up loving Michael Vick and we're seeing some of that right now in this game. Unbelievable, dual threat QB for UTSA."
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) October 1, 2022
Opposing defenses that are unable to diagnose UTSA’s zone read RPO have been diced up in the air.
The Roadrunners are top-20 in Passing Success Rate, Passing Downs Explosiveness and Finishing Drives. The focus of the offense has moved to a pass-heavy attack without explosiveness on the ground.
The defense has maintained a top-30 Success Rate mark from a season ago, but UTSA continues to be shelled by explosive plays. The Roadrunners are outside the top 100 in opponent 20-yard plays from scrimmage, with the biggest portion of those issues coming on Standard Downs.
Most defenses that struggle with tackling are prone to explosive plays, but with a mid-FBS ranking in tackle grading, these issues fall upon missed assignments from the secondary.
Western Kentucky vs. UTSA Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Western Kentucky and UTSA match up statistically:
Western Kentucky Offense vs. UTSA Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
UTSA Offense vs. Western Kentucky Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Pace of Play / Other
|SP+ Special Teams||63||97|
|Seconds per Play||23.9 (26)||22.9 (14)|
|Rush Rate||42.1% (123)||47.2% (103)|
Data via CollegeFootballData.com (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.
Western Kentucky vs. UTSA Betting Pick
When the Roadrunners are rolling on offense, the passing attack can get points up in a hurry.
UTSA has scored more points in the second quarter than any other quarter in all FBS games so far, as each attempt to establish the ground game has been relegated to Harris keeping the ball on zone reads for designed rushing attempts or deep passes.
Western Kentucky is a top-50 defense in terms of Line Yards, which means Harris will take it to the skies often.
Unlike Western Kentucky, the Roadrunners are one of the best third down teams in the nation at 55%.
If there’s a player the Western Kentucky offense will target, it’s linebacker Trevor Harmanson for UTSA. The fourth-year defender has seen increased targets from opposing quarterbacks, as eight Middle Tennessee passing attempts were directly at the linebacker.
Harmanson has one of the worst coverage grades in FBS for a starter, which is great news for slot receivers Malachi Corley and Michael Mathison. While neither of WKU’s slot receivers are explosive, wideout Daewood Davis owns a 2.5 yards per route run mark.
The Action Network projects this game at UTSA -6.5 with a total of 71 — both numbers are directly inline with the market. The ability to stop explosive plays and limit third downs will dictate both the side and the total.
Western Kentucky has struggled on third downs, but faces a UTSA defense that is near dead last in opponent conversion rates and owns a coverage grade outside the top 100.
Look for Western Kentucky to do enough defensively to get the cover.
As for the total, Western Kentucky has also been a slow starter. The Hilltoppers have scored more than a touchdown in the first quarter just once this season (vs. a horrific Florida International defense).
Although there is no value in the total, a pregame under joined with a second quarter over is the best investment strategy.