College Football Odds, Picks & Predictions for UAB vs. Western Kentucky (Friday, October 21)

College Football Odds, Picks & Predictions for UAB vs. Western Kentucky (Friday, October 21) article feature image

Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: UAB running back DeWayne McBride.

  • The UAB Blazers travel to Bowling Green, Kentucky, on Friday night to take on the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in a key Conference USA matchup.
  • The Hilltoppers are still slinging the ball well in the post-Bailey Zappe era, but the Blazers might have the secondary to contain Tyson Helton's offense.
  • Read on for Collin Wilson's full betting analysis and pick for UAB vs. Western Kentucky.

UAB vs. Western Kentucky Odds

Friday, Oct. 21
8 p.m. ET
CBS Sports Network
UAB Odds
-115o / -105u
Western Kentucky Odds
-115o / -105u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

Two teams desperate to stay in the hunt for a Conference USA Championship berth will meet under the Friday night lights in Week 8.

Western Kentucky and UAB have each suffered a loss in conference standings, trailing undefeated UTSA and North Texas, who are set to play this weekend.

The winner of this game remains in the thick of the race, while the loser will step back into the bottom half of a conference without divisions.

This is a vital two-game stretch for the Hilltoppers as they face North Texas — which remains undefeated in conference play — in Week 9. The Tops have cruised against lesser competition but suffered one-possession losses against Indiana, Troy and UTSA.

Donning the black uniforms and getting a boost from a Shaquille O'Neal concert, the Hilltoppers are motivated by a coaching staff with strong ties to a UAB program that's departing for the AAC.

The Blazers have two losses on the season, both coming on the road against Rice and Liberty. The real loss on the schedule can be contrived from penalties and mental errors, per interim head coach Bryant Vincent.

The Blazers end the season with back-to-back road games, but kicking November off against UTSA and North Texas will decide who plays in the conference championship.

UAB Blazers

In the wake of longtime head coach Bill Clark's retirement, Vincent is no stranger to UAB, serving as coordinator since 2018 with a previous stint in 2014.

Plenty of traits remain from Clark's regime, as the Blazers are heavy on the rush and have shown the ability in the explosive passing game with one of the slower tempos in FBS.

Running back DeWayne McBride has been one of the toughest running backs to tackle in all of college football.

DeWayne McBride, RB, @UAB_FB in 2 games:

🐉 48 carries
🐉 400 yards
🐉 5

— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) September 29, 2022

McBride averages 4.3 yards after contact and has recorded 31 missed tackles this season. The junior has the third-best yards-after-contact mark in college football, just behind Auburn's Tank Bigsby and Minnesota's Mohamed Ibrahim.

Thanks to the work of the offense, UAB ranks eighth nationally in standard downs explosiveness. The offense has picked apart secondaries over the past two games, as quarterback Dylan Hopkins has increased his average depth of target from 9.7 yards to over 12.

Defense has always been a calling card for the Blazers under Clark, as coordinator David Reeves is in his sixth season at Birmingham.

UAB has been ultra stingy in defending opposing passing attacks, ranking second in coverage grading with a top-35 mark in Passing Downs Success Rate and explosiveness.

Mac McWilliams ranks sixth in forced incompletions among individual cornerbacks, taking away half of the field from opposing passers.


— UAB Sports (@SportsUAB) September 2, 2022

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

Just as UAB is undergoing a shift without a long-term head coach, Western Kentucky is moving along in the post-Bailey Zappe and Zach Kittley world.

The Hilltoppers remain a pass-first offense with a top-25 mark in Passing Success Rate. Much of that success can be attributed to transfer quarterback Austin Reed, who's already posting a 21:5 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Reed has implemented the designed run into his game as well, as almost half of his 39 rushing attempts have come in the past two games against UTSA and Middle Tennessee.


21-10, good guys 😆#GoTops |

— WKU Football (@WKUFootball) October 15, 2022

The Western Kentucky defense continues to struggle compared to Tyson Helton's first few seasons as head coach at Bowling Green. The Hilltoppers don't generate Havoc or generate a pass rush ranking in the top half of FBS defenses.

Their Defensive Finishing Drives rank has fallen to 88th by allowing 4.3 points on 51 opponent scoring attempts. Helton knows possessions will be limited, and starting slow has been a consistent issue with the Hilltoppers.

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UAB vs. Western Kentucky Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how UAB and Western Kentucky match up statistically:

UAB Offense vs. Western Kentucky Defense
Rush Success3953
Line Yards10797
Pass Success3550
Pass Blocking**672
Finishing Drives4388
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Western Kentucky Offense vs. UAB Defense
Rush Success8763
Line Yards7476
Pass Success2137
Pass Blocking**440
Finishing Drives449
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling742
PFF Coverage242
SP+ Special Teams10163
Seconds per Play29.8 (124)23.8 (23)
Rush Rate65.1% (8)40.8% (126)
Data via (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.

UAB vs. Western Kentucky Betting Pick

Removing a blowout game against Florida International, the Hilltoppers own a scoring differential of -12 in the first quarter of every game this season. That number is in stark contrast to the Blazers, who support a +49 point differential in the first frame in 2022.

Each of these teams falls just outside of the top 100 in strength of schedule, but UAB has clearly taken the blowout route in advantageous spots.

Western Kentucky finds itself at a disadvantage against the UAB secondary. Not only is McWilliams one of the best cornerbacks in FBS, but Starling Thomas on the opposite side is also a top-70 individual defensive player in pass breakups.

Although Reed has a healthy touchdown-to-interception ratio, the quarterback has produced 14 big-time throws and 12 turnover-worthy plays this season.

In 52 dropbacks with pressure, Reed has yet to record a big-time throw. Reed has just a single big-time throw on underneath passes, with the 13 remaining coming on connections beyond 20 yards. However, UAB enters as a top-10 defense in defending passing plays beyond 20 yards.

Action Network projects this game at UAB -1.5, giving value to the Blazers in the current market.

Considering Western Kentucky has no presence in the run game and will be limited in downfield throwing, scoring opportunities may be limited for the Hilltoppers. UAB ranks top-10 in tackling and Defensive Finishing Drives, further complicating offensive goals for WKU.

The referee crew will play a part in this game, as each team ranks outside the top 110 in penalty yards per game.

With McBride leading the Blazers to a top-five mark in rush explosiveness and a Blazers defense that has locked down against the pass, look for UAB to overcome previous issues on the road in this Conference USA battle.

Pick: UAB +2.5 or Better

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