College Football Odds, Picks, Predictions for UTSA vs. Western Kentucky: Can Roadrunners Down Hilltoppers?
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- The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers take on the UTSA Roadrunners in Saturday night college football action.
- The Hilltoppers have impressed offensively with Bailey Zappe at the helm, but the defense hasn't seen the likes of Roadrunners running back Sincere McCormick yet.
- Darin Gardner breaks down the game below and shares a betting pick and prediction based on his analysis.
UTSA vs. Western Kentucky Odds
|Western Kentucky Odds||-3|
|Moneyline||+130 / -150|
|Over/Under||70.5 (-115 / -105)|
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
|Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.|
Saturday’s game between the UTSA Roadrunners and Western Kentucky Hilltoppers could be a potential preview of the Conference USA title game, considering how each team has looked compared to the rest of the league.
UTSA will be putting its undefeated record on the line in Bowling Green, Ky., and while Western Kentucky sits at just 1-3, it has had a tough opening schedule that has featured two consecutive Big Ten opponents. In fact, the Hilltoppers are the only C-USA team yet to play a conference game.
The Western Kentucky offense has been electric with the arrival of transfer Bailey Zappe, but does the defense have what it takes to cover this number against a very solid UTSA team?
UTSA vs. Western Kentucky Betting Preview
This offense has plenty of weapons, and the Roadrunners will be looking to take advantage of a defense with a lot of question marks after its recent performances.
Starting in the backfield, running back Sincere McCormick has received an enormous workload in 2021. He’s received 132 handoffs in five games, which leads the nation by a comfortable margin and his 541 yards ranks 11th overall.
While he’s been leaned on heavily, receiver Zakhari Franklin has arguably been the most impressive weapon. His 89.7 PFF receiving grade ranks third in the country at the position and he’s generating a 133.9 passer rating on passes thrown his way.
Franklin has averaged more than 13 targets per game in his three contests versus FBS opponents. He came up huge in the upset win over Illinois, with 10 catches for 155 yards and a touchdown.
With Franklin and two more productive receivers in Joshua Cephus and De’Corian Clark, the Roadrunners’ passing game will be looking to take advantage of a secondary that has proven to be very vulnerable.
The defense has been the best unit for the Roadrunners so far and it will be needed against this Western Kentucky offense. Overall, it ranks 16th in expected points added (EPA) per play, with a run defense that has been very impressive in five games.
It hasn’t allowed more than 2.5 yards per carry in four consecutive contests, and the “worst” performance of the year was allowing 4.2 YPC to Illinois. This game could come down to how well UTSA is able to defend the Western Kentucky passing offense, but UTSA stacks up very well on the ground.
UTSA’s pass defense hasn’t been quite as good, with a ranking of 36th in EPA per throw, but the pass rush has been productive and will be looking to get Zappe out of rhythm. I
t’s ranked 22nd in the nation in terms of PFF grade, with its pass-rushing duo of Clarence Hicks and Trumaine Bell combining for 6.5 sacks and 12 quarterback hurries in four games.
Western Kentucky Offense
You know Western Kentucky’s offense has been impressive when Zappe already has his own sound effect on the Action Network podcasts.
Zappe enters the game ranked 16th in yards per attempt and has run a passing offense that ranks fourth in Success Rate. He’s also gotten plenty of opportunities to throw the ball as the Hilltoppers have been playing behind in three straight games and his shoulder might still be a little sore after throwing it 65 times against Michigan State last week.
The ground game has been a different story, though, as the Hilltoppers’ running back duo has struggled to create on their own. The two have combined for just six missed tackles forced, per PFF, and each ranks outside of the top 250 in missed tackles forced among 311 running backs with at least 20 attempts.
Against this defense, don’t expect Western Kentucky to ride the ground game to too much success.
Western Kentucky Defense
Western Kentucky’s defense had previously been the strength of the team, but that has absolutely flip-flopped this season.
Starting in the back end, the Hilltoppers rank 114th in yards allowed per attempt, but that isn’t being helped at all by a pass rush that ranks 129th in pressure rate, per PFF. To date, the team’s sack leader has just 1.5 of them.
The Hilltoppers haven’t been any better on the ground, either, with a ranking of 114th in Rushing Success Rate. Per PFF, the Hilltoppers’ run defense has received a positive grade on just 45% of plays, which is tied for third-worst in the country.
Against UTSA’s weapons both in the passing game and running game, this unit looks overmatched in this spot.
UTSA vs. Western Kentucky Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how UTSA and Western Kentucky match up statistically:
UTSA Offense vs. Western Kentucky Defense
Western Kentucky Offense vs. UTSA Defense
Pace of Play / Other
Data via College Football Data, FootballOutsiders, SP+, PFF and SportSource Analytics.
When UTSA has the ball, it should be able to find success in both the passing game and running game against this defense. The Roadrunners lean heavily on McCormick and Franklin, and both should be able to capitalize on that workload against a defense that has struggled across the board.
On the other side, this Western Kentucky passing offense will be a big test for the Roadrunners’ defense for sure. A matchup to watch will be Western Kentucky’s Jerreth Sterns against this UTSA zone-heavy defense, as he enters with 546 receiving yards in just four games.
Additionally, the UTSA pass rush versus Western Kentucky’s offensive line will be key, as both have performed very well early on in the year.
UTSA vs. Western Kentucky Betting Pick
Over the course of the week, there hasn’t been a ton of movement on this line. It briefly opened at Western Kentucky -2.5, but that quickly turned to 3 and 3.5 and now sits between those two numbers depending on where you look.
Personally, I see value on the Roadrunners in this spot. The defense has what it takes to get stops against an impressive offense and it looks to have an exploitable mismatch with this Hilltoppers defense.
I project Western Kentucky as a favorite of just 0.8 points in this showdown, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see UTSA finish this game with a 6-0 record.
Pick: UTSA +3.5
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