Appalachian State vs. Western Kentucky Betting Odds, Predictions: Our Favorite Pick for Boca Raton Bowl
Getty Images. Pictured: Mitchell Tinsley (left) and Camerun Peoples (right).
Appalachian State vs. Western Kentucky Odds
|Appalachian State Odds|
-110o / -110u
|Western Kentucky Odds|
-110o / -110u
It’s hard to be disappointed about being in Boca Raton, Florida, but both Appalachian State and Western Kentucky enter with a bad taste in their mouths after losses in their respective conference championships.
After harvesting the organs of Houston Baptist, Western Kentucky and its high-flying offense finished 8-5 and earned a trip to the C-USA title game after ending with a 7-2 mark in the conference.
App State reached the Sun Belt title game for the third time in four years after a 10-3 season but fell in the game for the first time.
Both teams entered championship weekend red-hot, with the Hilltoppers winning seven straight before its loss. App State had won six straight before dropping a game to Louisiana for the second time.
Both teams also possess plenty of bowl experience here. The Tops have made the postseason in eight of the last 10 years, owning a 4-3 record in their bowl games.
Since making the jump from FCS to FBS in 2014, the Mountaineers have reached a bowl game in all seven seasons since they became eligible. They are 6-0 in bowl games and have the longest active bowl winning streak in the country.
While Western Kentucky ranks 129th in rush rate, App State ranks 36th, running the ball over 58% of the time.
The two-headed monster of Nate Noel and Camerun Peoples have each averaged over 75 yards per game and 5.3 yards per carry. Noel leads the team with 1,076 yards, and Peoples finishes it off with 14 touchdowns.
Veteran quarterback Chase Brice still struggles with turnovers, but he has more than doubled his touchdown production in his first season with App State. He has thrown for 23 scores and while averaging 232.3 yards per game.
Three wide receivers average at least 60 yards per game and six touchdowns or more on the season. Leading man Corey Sutton won’t play in the bowl game after undergoing surgery but Malik Williams and Thomas Hennigan are expected to play.
App State’s strength is its defense, as it has been for a few years now. It ranks top-20 in the country in both scoring and total defense.
Its experience really showed, especially against the run. The Mountaineers defense sits eighth in the country Rushing Success Rate and second in Line Yards.
This front seven leads the country in Havoc rate. Only Oklahoma State had more tackles for loss than App State. It racked up 108 tackles for loss this year, led by linebackers D’Marco Jackson (18.5) and Nick Hampton (16.5).
When offensive coordinator Zach Kittley came to the Hilltoppers from Houston Baptist, he brought with him his rocket-arm quarterback, Bailey Zappe. Kittley was hired as the offensive coordinator at Texas Tech after the season but is staying around to coach the bowl game.
That is good news for Zappe, who is on the verge of history. The Hilltopper signal-caller led the country with 426.5 yards per game and 56 touchdown passes. He tossed more than 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns more than the next closest quarterback.
He needs five touchdowns to pass Joe Burrow for the most in college football history and three to pass Colt Brennan for second all-time. Four touchdowns would tie the record, and Zappe has thrown at least that many in six straight games.
Y’all know me, still the same OG, but I been low key… Welcome to the national stage Bailey Zappe@WKUFootballpic.twitter.com/49EJPCXlLm
— Collin Wilson (@_Collin1) December 4, 2021
Zappe will also have his top two receivers available in All-American Jerreth Sterns and Mitchell Tinsley. They combined for 26 touchdown catches this year and helped lead Western Kentucky to the second-highest scoring offense in the country, averaging 43.1 points per game.
The defensive side of the ball has been much more of an issue. It allowed 28.7 points per game and turned most games into shootouts.
During the Hilltoppers’ winning streak, the defense showed big signs of improvement. It allowed just 18.9 points per game during that stretch.
The biggest area of weakness has been defending the run. Western Kentucky ranks 98th in Rushing Success Rate on defense. Last week, that unit got torched for 304 rushing yards and five touchdowns on the ground against UTSA.
Forcing turnovers has been a big strength for the defense, though, and its saving grace at times. It finished second in the country with 19 interceptions.
Appalachian State vs. Western Kentucky Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Western Kentucky and Appalachian State match up statistically:
Western Kentucky Offense vs. Appalachian State Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Appalachian State Offense vs. Western Kentucky Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Pace of Play / Other
|SP+ Special Teams||14||11|
|Plays per Minute||5||79|
|Rush Rate||33.1% (129)||58.1% (36)|
Appalachian State vs. Western Kentucky Betting Pick
It’s always important to play psychologist leading into these bowl games and try to figure out what the motivation will be for each side. These two teams are hard to gauge, as they both had very successful seasons but are coming off disappointing losses in the conference championships.
The one motivation factor that I am most confident in is that Western Kentucky will want to get Zappe the single-season touchdown record. He needs five to break the record, and no matter the score, the Tops will do everything they can to get there.
For App State, it should have plenty of success running the ball with Noel and Peoples against a weak Western Kentucky rush defense.
Brice tends to be very boom-or-bust when throwing the ball. He can bomb it around for touchdowns but will also throw plenty of interceptions, both of which are good for an over.
That’s the best way to attack this game. Play the over, and root Zappe to make history down in Boca Raton, Florida.
Pick: Over 66.5 (Play to 68)
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