Western Kentucky vs. Middle Tennessee Odds & Picks: Offenses to Light Up Scoreboard
Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images. Pictured: Elijah Metcalf (Middle Tennessee)
- Western Kentucky heads to Middle Tennessee for a Conference USA matchup on Saturday.
- The Tops boast an explosive offense, and our analyst sees betting value on the over.
- Check out Keg's full betting guide for this game below.
Western Kentucky vs. Middle Tennessee Odds
Saturday's matchup between Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky will mark the 72nd meeting in the "100 Miles of Hate" rivalry.
This series dates back to 1914 and has persevered despite FCS to FBS and conference transitions for both teams. The Hilltoppers and Blue Raiders have met yearly since 2014, both as members of the Conference USA.
Last season's meeting — in which the Hilltoppers won 48-21 — saw Western Kentucky tie the all-time series at 35-35-1.
MTSU has held the lead nearly the entire series, but Western has been dominant of late, winning seven of the last 10 meetings and six of the previous seven. The Hilltoppers are currently on a three-game winning streak in the series.
Middle Tennessee is a veteran team, with 15 players in their fifth or sixth year of college. 10 of those players have been at MTSU for the length of their college career and have only beaten Western Kentucky once.
Can they finish on a high note by upsetting the Hilltoppers as an eight-point underdog to re-establish the series lead?
The Hilltoppers had a heartbreaking loss their last time out, failing to convert a fourth down on the game's final drive to give UTSA the 31-28 win.
Western is currently tied for fifth in the C-USA standings with UAB and Florida Atlantic, all of which are 1-1 in conference play.
Western's offense ranks first in the conference, scoring 40.8 points per game. The Hilltoppers are also second in yards per game, putting up 496.5 per contest.
WKU is led by Austin Reed, who ranks first among C-USA quarterbacks and third overall in the nation in total passing yards and passing yards per game.
Reed is completing 71.8% of his passes on the season and has thrown 19 touchdowns while only tossing four interceptions.
For reference, Bailey Zappe completed 70.4% of passes for 26 touchdowns and four interceptions last season after his first six games.
Despite the offense continuing where it left off last year as one of the best in the country, the defense has struggled, which has cost WKU games.
Western's defense does rank second among C-USA teams in scoring — allowing just 23.7 points per game — but it's also giving up 244.8 passing yards and 374.8 total yards per game.
The Hilltoppers are tied for the C-USA lead with nine interceptions on the year. The only issue is that the tie is with the Blue Raiders.
The Blue Raiders had one of their biggest wins in program history earlier this season, taking down Miami (FL) 45-31 on the road.
But since that win, things seem to have gone south for Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders have lost two games in a row following that victory and sit at 0-2 in the conference.
Middle Tennessee blends into the middle of the pack in the Conference USA in offense and defense. Its biggest weakness is passing defense, but to counteract that, it has one of the best defenders in the league.
Decorian Patterson leads the Conference USA and is tied for fourth among all players in FBS with four interceptions on the season. The Blue Raiders have a stand out game changer on the offensive side of the ball as well in Jaylin Lane.
In the last two games, Lane has made his position known as WR1 for the Blue Raiders, hauling in 19 receptions for 238 yards and one touchdown.
Expect the offense to turn to him if Western jumps out early.
Western Kentucky vs. Middle Tennessee Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee match up statistically:
Western Kentucky Offense vs. Middle Tennessee Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Middle Tennessee Offense vs. Western Kentucky Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Pace of Play / Other
|SP+ Special Teams||63||43|
|Seconds per Play||24.0 (25)||23.4 (17)|
|Rush Rate||40.5% (127)||48.3% (96)|
Data via CollegeFootballData.com (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.
Western Kentucky vs. Middle Tennessee Betting Pick
Matchups between the Hilltoppers and Blue Raiders have come down to the wire recently, with eight of the last 11 meetings being decided by one score or less.
I think Western Kentucky will find success against a MTSU secondary that is among the worst in yards per attempt (8.7), as well as outside the top 100 in both Passing Success Rate Allowed and Passing Explosiveness Allowed.
But I am hesitant to lay more than a touchdown in a rivalry that has been so closely contested.
Alternatively, I think there is value on the game's total.
Western Kentucky's defense has had struggles of its own, ranking 85th in Defensive Finishing Drives and 69th in Success Rate Allowed. The only team worse than the Hilltoppers when it comes to passing yards allowed in the C-USA is Rice.
Both teams also rank inside the top 25 in terms of pace of play, with Western Kentucky averaging 23.32 seconds per play, while the Blue Raiders move even quicker with an average of 21.27 seconds per play.
As a result, I think this game goes over the listed total of 67.5. Our own Brad Cunningham projects this game with a total of 81.1. I feel confident in taking the over at any number 69.5 or better.