College Football Picks for Western Kentucky vs. Indiana: Is This Week 3 CFB Spread Too High? (Saturday, Sept. 17)
Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers head coach Tyson Helton
Western Kentucky vs. Indiana Odds
After an early bye week following their trip to Hawaii, the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers will make the 188-mile trek to Bloomington to square off against the Indiana Hoosiers.
Saturday's noon kickoff has a little more to it than just a matchup between two red schools with odd mascots.
Last year, the Hoosiers made it out of Bowling Green with a narrow 33-31 win — a game, in my opinion, WKU should've won.
Bailey Zappe and a majority of the players from that game — on both sides — are gone, but that hasn't been a factor in the past with Indiana. The Hoosiers hold a 4-0 record all-time over the Hilltoppers.
Many expected the Hilltoppers' offense to take a step backward following the team's offseason departures. But quarterback Austin Reed and the Hilltoppers seem to be rolling right along, averaging 45.5 points and 400 yards in their first two games.
Reed has also completed 64.6% of his passes for an offense that ranks 24th in Offensive Explosiveness. Taking advantage of deep opportunities down the field will be an absolute must if WKU wants to win this game.
The good news is the coaching staff has no problem with that. The Hilltoppers will do anything they can to make an explosive play happen, and they aren't afraid to take a considerable risk, which they'll need to do if they want to get their first win in program history over a Big Ten team.
Western Kentucky's defense is what I think will be the deciding factor in this game. We know the offense will show up, especially against an Indiana defense that ranks 89th in Pass Play Success Rate Allowed. The Western Kentucky defense ranks 49th in Rush Success and 55th in Pass Success.
Yes, the Hilltoppers have started their season against Austin Peay and Hawaii, but this defense ranks 24th nationally in returning production. The experience and talent on both sides of the ball should be enough to keep this game as close as last year.
Indiana has already proved some doubters wrong with its upset over Illinois to start the season, but is it truly better than we thought? We saw the Hoosiers come closer to earth last week, beating Idaho by just 13 as 24.5-point favorites.
The Hoosiers have had some success passing the ball, and rank 51st in Explosiveness. Quarterback Connor Bazelak is completing 54.3% of his passes, but the passing game could ultimately be Indiana's downfall.
Bazelak has thrown two interceptions in two games while recording just three passing touchdowns. Those are not the stats you want to be posting when you're matched up against a Hilltoppers team that ranks second nationally in turnovers (three recovered fumbles and seven interceptions).
Western Kentucky also ranks 19th in Pass Play Explosiveness Allowed.
When it comes to running the ball, Indiana ran all over Idaho, but recorded just 32 yards on 26 carries against Illinois. Western Kentucky doesn't have the stopping power of the Illini, but it can limit Indiana enough to prevent the rushing attack from being a severe issue.
WKU ranks 112th in Defensive Rush Success Rate, but is 49th in Rush Explosiveness on defense.
Western Kentucky vs. Indiana Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Western Kentucky and Indiana match up statistically:
Western Kentucky Offense vs. Indiana Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Indiana Offense vs. Western Kentucky Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Pace of Play / Other
|SP+ Special Teams||92||67|
|Seconds per Play||25.5 (54)||19.1 (2)|
|Rush Rate||48.8% (83)||43.4% (107)|
Data via CollegeFootballData.com (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.
Western Kentucky vs. Indiana Pick
Our Action Network projections make Indiana a 0.3-point favorite in this game. Indiana has outperformed expectations this season, but has only played Illinois and Idaho.
I think WKU will be Indiana's toughest test yet and more importantly, this number opened insanely high, and is still too high.
Western Kentucky's offensive advantage is in Finishing Drives. The Hilltoppers' experience and defensive explosiveness will be enough to keep this one close. And if turnovers become a problem for the Hoosiers, it may be enough to give the Hilltoppers their first Big Ten win in program history.
I was able to grab WKU early after it opened at +9, but I would back the Hilltoppers as low as +3 and wouldn't be against a small wager on the moneyline, as well.