UTSA vs. Western Kentucky Odds, Picks, Predictions: Betting Guide to this Matchup
Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Bailey Zappe.
- UTSA looks to keep its undefeated record alive as it faces off against Bailey Zappe and Western Kentucky.
- Senior quarterback Zappe has had a marvelous start to the season for the Hilltoppers with 16 touchdowns and just two picks.
- Our staff previews and debates the matchup below.
UTSA vs. Western Kentucky Odds
-115o / -105u
|Western Kentucky Odds|
-115o / -105u
Look, just like everybody else, I love Bailey Zappe. He has been electric and incredibly fun to watch.
But you know who else was always fun to watch? One, Wile E. Coyote. He was entertaining, highly creative and usually included explosives in his everyday life. Yet, no matter what he schemed up, he could never stop the Road Runner from running all over the place.
And that is exactly what we can expect on Saturday.
Western Kentucky ranks 114th in Rushing Success on defense this season and has allowed 216.5 yards per game on the ground.
Now, it has the task of trying to stop one of the best running backs in the country in Sincere McCormick. He finished last season second in the nation with 1,467 yards on the ground.
This season, he sits 11th in the nation and has racked up 541 yards and six touchdowns through the first five games.
Of those yards, 293 have come after contact. McCormick is going to run through a Hilltoppers defense that ranks 86th in tackling.
UTSA’s defense is experienced and brought back all 11 starters from last season and its top-14 leading tacklers. It has been dominant against the run this year, ranking third in the nation, allowing just 2.3 yards per carry.
Western Kentucky ranks just 108th in Rushing Success Rate, and its inability to run the ball has made it completely one-dimensional.
Zappe is going to be able to throw the ball. There’s no denying that.
But All-Conference USA star safety Rashad Wisdom and this UTSA secondary will do just enough to limit the damage while UTSA runs it down the Hilltoppers’ throat just like UT-Martin, Army, Indiana and Michigan State all did.
Mike is going to try and convince you that the Western Kentucky attack is too one-dimensional. He’ll try to say that the Hilltoppers’ offensive attack is too imbalanced, too pass-centric, and will be easy to stop as a result.
This is nonsense. As the infamous B.C.E. football coach/war strategist Sun Tzu wrote, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”
The Hilltoppers know their strength and should play to their strength, and that’s Bailey Zappe and the aerial attack.
Because while they’ve fared poorly in the rush game, they are second in overall Offensive Success Rate and 10th in yards per game. UTSA couldn’t touch those numbers with a 100-foot pole.
So, the Hilltoppers know themselves, and they should know their enemy ranks outside the top 45 in Defensive Passing Success Rate and outside the top 100 in Defense Passing Explosiveness.
Considering Zappe ranks first among qualified quarterbacks in adjusted completion percentage on passes 20+ yards downfield (73.9%), that doesn’t bode well for the Roadrunners, whether Western Kentucky runs the ball or not.
Ianniello: Yes, Zappe has been great and can throw the ball all over the yard. The Hilltoppers rank fourth in the country in Passing Success Rate. Well, UTSA isn’t far behind, ranking 11th in Pass Success Rate.
Quarterback Frank Harris has taken a huge step forward this season, and that is exactly what the Roadrunners needed. He’s completing 69% of his passes for 225 yards per game and 7.8 yards per attempt. He has six touchdowns through the air and can to use his legs out of the pocket as well.
Harris has two great weapons on the outside in Zakhari Franklin and Joshua Cephus, who are both averaging over 75 yards per game and allow this offense to be well-balanced and put up 34.6 points per game.
They will be a trouble for a Western Kentucky secondary that ranks 100th in Coverage Grade, per Pro Football Focus.
UTSA is sixth in the country at Finishing Drives this season, and it does all of the little things right.
The Roadrunners have taken the fewest penalties in the conference this season and average less than four flags per game.
They have the second-best turnover margin and have an excellent special teams unit, deploying a pair of 2020 Conference USA First-Teamers in kicker Hunter Duplessis and punter Lucas Dean.
McGrath: I’ve heard a lot about the UTSA weapons. Sincere McCormick, Frank Harris, Zakhari Franklin, Joshua Cephus.
But good football teams are built from the inside out. Behind an offensive line that ranks only 47th in Line Yards, the Roadrunners rank just 77th in Rush Success Rate.
McCormick has put up yards, but he’s had tons of opportunities to compile stats — UTSA runs at the 33rd-highest rate in the FBS. The reality is that the Roadrunners aren’t getting a major push up front and aren’t being very efficient with their rushing opportunities.
UTSA is going to want to grind down Western Kentucky. It’ll have to put together long, sustained scoring drives to keep the ball out of Zappe’s hands. But the advanced stats don’t suggest they can do that.
The Roadrunners rank just 89th in Standard Downs Success Rate. And while they rank 21st in Passing Downs Success Rate, Western Kentucky ranks second. Now, do you really want to get into a shootout with Zappe?
Because if that’s how this game plays out, Western Kentucky is going to cover by a lot more than a field goal.
Ianniello: Tanner is right — that is exactly what UTSA is going to do. It’s going to put together long drives and keep the ball out of Zappe’s hands. As is the point of this article, I disagree with you and believe it will work.
First off, the Line Yards stat is a poor representation of this UTSA offensive line. All five offensive line starters returned from a unit that ranked 33rd in Line Yards last season. Before last week, it ranked 24th, but a poor game last week dropped its numbers a bit. This is still a good unit.
Also, I expect the run game to be efficient, because every team has been efficient against this defense.
Western Kentucky has allowed a whopping 4.73 yards per carry around the ground. Despite the lack of an elite Success Rate, the Roadrunners have stayed consistent to their game plan and continue to run the ball until McCormick breaks one.
They also establish the run to open up the play-action game for Harris.
UTSA is 14th in the country in third-down conversion rate and averages 34.6 points per game. So, while it might not be as flashy as the Hilltoppers offense, the Roadrunners can move the ball and put up points.
McGrath: UTSA will move the ball. But you have to be flashy to beat Zappe. Because you have to keep up.
Western Kentucky has covered in four of its five games. The only rush-heavy team that covered against the Hilltoppers was Michigan State, which is far more efficient than the Roadrunners are.
Michigan State ranks fifth in Rush Success Rate and 13th in Standard Downs Success Rate. Otherwise, this offense has dominated enough to compensate for its defense.
The Roadrunners have had a killer season. But their ground attack isn’t good enough to go toe-to-toe with the Hilltoppers offense.
UTSA has averaged 35 points per game, but it put up 54 against Lamar and managed just 24 last week against Nevada.
The Hilltoppers have tested and proven their offense against two Big Ten defenses. No way UTSA will keep pace.
Ianniello: Bet UTSA +2.5
Everybody got really excited with Tyson Helton bringing over offensive coordinator Zach Kittley, Zappe and this Houston Baptist offense that set FCS records last season.
Well, so far this FCS offense is just 1-3, with the lone win coming against an FCS team.
UTSA is off to a 5-0 start for the first time since joining Conference USA, and Jeff Traylor has his team poised for the best season in program history.
I’ll ride with the Roadrunners in what should be an exciting clash. Meep Meep!
McGrath: Bet Western Kentucky -2.5
The hungry dog runs faster, they say. While UTSA has won five straight, Western Kentucky is starving for a win coming off losses to three quality teams, including a top-25 opponent last week.
While the Roadrunners defense has played well, they haven’t played an offense as talented as Zappe’s.
And while the Western Kentucky defense is below-average, UTSA’s offense is not talented enough to match up with WKU’s.
Make sure you grab a six-pack because we’re all getting together for Zappe Hour in Bowling Green on Friday night.