quotas between utsa and western kentucky
utsa lost its perfect season with a road loss to north texas last week, but still had the best season in program history. after winning their first division usa uu. in conference, the roadrunners will try to secure their first conference title and then win their first bowl.
Meanwhile, Western Kentucky will be looking to go three-for-three in the C-USA Championship Games, having won both previous appearances in 2015 and 2016. Similar to those two high-powered offenses that put up 45 and 58 points in the conference title game, this club of hilltoppers can score points with the best.
wku’s new passing offense averaged 43.2 points per game in the regular season. only the state of ohio surpassed that clip. The Roadrunners saw firsthand just how explosive WKU’s offense can be when the Hilltoppers finished with 670 total yards in their regular season matchup.
the roadrunners got that victory with a final score of 52-46 after western kentucky failed to score in the end zone after having first and goal in the last minute.
will the hilltoppers get their revenge or can the roadrunners secure their first conference championship? Regardless of who wins, expect plenty of offensive fireworks.
Let’s take a closer look at this pairing.
The Hilltoppers won the C-USA East Division on the final day of the regular season with a dominant road game from Marshall. They finished 8-4 overall with three one-possession losses (at Army, Indiana, UTSA) and a 17-point loss at the hands of Michigan State in East Lansing.
after starting 1-4, western kentucky had an absolute run and hasn’t looked back. Since the coin toss loss to UTSA, he has won seven in a row, all by at least two touchdowns and an average score of 45.3-18.8. that’s pure domination.
When it comes to the hilltoppers, it all starts with the passing offense that he essentially transferred from houston baptist by hiring offensive coordinator zach kittley, who brought all of his key offensive pieces from space city to bowling green, kentucky.
bailey zappe, who led the nation with just under 5,000 passing yards and 52 touchdown passes, is the leading force behind the offense.
his favorite target by far is his old houston baptist teammate jerreth sterns, who finished with 127 catches (29 more than the next guy) and 1,539 yards, just four shy of one-season leader deven thompkins.
The high-flyers, who scored at least 31 points in all 12 games, are the only team in the country to average more than 400 passing yards.
The running game isn’t very efficient, but who needs a running game when you lead the nation in passing success rate? only mississippi state’s passing offense averaged fewer rushing attempts per game.
the offensive line has also been highlighted, ranking no. 1 in adjusted sack rate overall and in passing. It also helps that Zappe is one of only seven quarterbacks on FBS averaging 2.3 seconds or less per pass attempt. the line o also ranks in the top 20 across the board in every run blocking metric.
In a nutshell, this offense is a behemoth that moves the ball efficiently while making its fair share of explosive plays and ranks elite when it comes to finishing spikes.
While the offense bears most of WKU’s load, the defense, led by defensive end deangelo malone, safety antwon kincade and cornerback omari alexander, has improved as the season has progressed.
He’s still very vulnerable against the run, but defensive coordinator Maurice Crum has done a nice job moving some pieces around to optimize this unit’s production in the second half of the season.
getting dominique bradshaw back in the wide corner in week 6 and moving beanie bishop to the slot has really paid off in the secondary. Recently, it has also given some transfers more playing time, which has paid off.
after holding just one of their first five fbs opponents below their all-season ypp by an average margin of -0.7, western kentucky held five of their last six opponents below their season mark for 1.1 yards on average.
the roadrunners have had a magical season. Before last week’s loss, they had a perfect 11-0 record and found themselves ranked nationally.
Running back Sincere McCormick got all the preseason attention after rushing for just under 1,500 yards last season (2nd). however, he has seen his rushing yards drop from 5.9 to 4.9 this season.
Actually, it’s quarterback frank harris and the passing offense that has led the way for utsa.
Harris, who has also rushed for just under 500 yards this year, has a trio of highly explosive receivers to work with on the outside. Zakhari Franklin and Joshua Cephus are their targets, as the duo finished with 67 and 66 catches, respectively.
The offensive line has also been better at pass protection than at creating gaps for McCormick.
On the other side of the ball, the defense has excelled at stopping the run (30th in rush rate) and chasing down opposing quarterbacks (31st in sack rate). however, passing defense is still a major issue, ranking 85th in passing efficiency defense. that could spell doom once again against zappe and company.
It’s also fair to question the level of competition from the fast opposing offenses he’s faced. after all, over the past two weeks, uab rushed him 36 times for 238 yards (6.6 ypc) and north texas had 340 rushing on 60 carries (5.7).
analysis of confrontation between utsa and western kentucky
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how utsa and western kentucky match up statistically:
utsa vs. western kentucky betting pick
Personally, I think roadrunners are a bit overrated. We know they were destroyed last week by North Texas, but let’s focus on their 11 wins. here are the three good wins on his resume:
- they won in memphis by three after rallying from a 14-quarter deficit in the fourth quarter thanks to a pair of memphis fumbles and personal fouls. the tigers averaged 2.7 more yards per play (7.0-4.3).
- I already mentioned their win over western kentucky by five in which wku failed to score the game-winning touchdown after a personal foul and the interception later. . wku finished with over 100 more yards of total offense and a higher average yards per play.
- they beat uab at home by three points on a lucky last-second touchdown in a game in which uab he finished with 99 more yards and a significant yards per play advantage (7.8-5.4).
utsa pulled a rabbit out of the hat each time despite being outclassed in all three stages, the narrative surrounding the team would be very different if he lost all three as he probably should have.
The other eight roadrunner wins were against the following teams:
- central tennessee
- louisiana technology
- Miss from the south
Of the previous group, which combined to go 32-63 on the season, only utep finished with a winning record. Despite playing an easier schedule overall, UTSA went 5-0 in one-possession games compared to Western Kentucky’s 0-3 mark.
both teams were a bit lucky in the billing department (top five in billing margin), so nothing to see from a regression standpoint.
also, western kentucky has the best special teams. The Hilltoppers also rank as the unluckiest team in the nation when it comes to opposing field goals, though I wouldn’t expect many misses from UTSA’s excellent kicker, Hunter Duplessis.
Ultimately, this sets up to be a great matchup for Western Kentucky’s prolific passing attack on a fast track at the Alamodome against a utsa secondary that ranks 87th in successful pass rate and 99th in coverage. . The Roadrunners also rank outside the top 100 in the first EPA attempts, but have had a bit of luck in the third attempts. we could see a fix in the latter.
on the other side of the ball, western kentucky’s defense is playing much better than when these two teams played earlier this season. hilltoppers are also stronger against the pass (17th in coverage, per pff), which has been utsa’s offense’s strong point in 2021. utsa will certainly put up a good amount of points, but i think wku can get more stops key than roadrunners.
what’s better than a happy hour on a Friday night? I would say just zappe time.
I think zappe and company finally nailed this and would bet on western kentucky at -3 or better. if you can’t get that number, I’d look for something short of a live field goal in a game that should have a lot of points and a lot of swings.
for those who followed my future conference champion wku 10-1 preseason, personally i’m just putting my original bet on utsa +3.5 or better hoping for a potential mid as well.
As for the total, it’s all or nothing between two high-powered offenses that want to play with rhythm. this should be a shootout, but the over/under seems pretty fair to me.