Start Time: 3:30 PM CT
Streaming: Flo Football
Betting: Western Kentucky is favored by 16.5 according to Oddshark.
The Series: This Saturday marks the first ever meeting between WKU and Charlotte.
Western Kentucky got their third win of the year by the skin of their teeth last week. The Tops beat winless UTEP by a score of 15-14 behind two rushing TDS from Mike White and three missed field goals by UTEP kicker Brady Viles. UTEP outgained WKU on the ground by 89 yards and controlled the ball for six more minutes of the game. The highlight of the game was a 13 play, 80-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown.
While establishing the run game has been a point of importance stressed heavily by head coach Mike Sanford throughout the first half of the season, WKU still has only averaged 74.6 yards per game on the ground. That’s the worst rushing average in Conference USA. If they want a chance to really improve their execution in that area, they will have to take it this week against a Charlotte defense that’s allowing 192 yards per game.
On the passing side, White has shown that he’s still got a great arm completing 66% of his passes for 1255 yards, but he’s only found the end zone through the air twice. Receivers Xavier Lane, Lucky Jackson, and Nacarius Fant have been his primary targets along with tight end Deon Yelder who has emerged as relatively dependable, particularly in the red zone. Charlotte’s pass defense is also in the bottom four of the league in both efficiency and yards given up, which should bode well for the Tops.
The 49ers haven’t won a game yet this season and that can’t solely be blamed on their defense. Charlotte’s offense is tied for the fewest points scored this season among Conference USA teams. Two weeks ago against FIU, the 49ers had some moderate success with junior quarterback Hasaan Klugh taking a bigger role in the rushing attack. Klugh had 107 yards and 3 TDs on the ground to go along with a passing TD as the 49ers ended up losing that game 30-29. A week later, that style of attack did not resurface as Klugh only netted four rushing yards on eight attempts in a 14-3 loss to Marshall.
If Klugh can get the kind of day he had against FIU going once again, then that will be the 49ers best shot. Klugh has thrown for just 783 yards this year on 75 completions with five touchdowns and eight interceptions. He’s also been sacked 13 times this year. Even if the 49ers do decide to lean heavily on Hasaan Klugh’s legs and the rest of the running game, WKU has only given up a league best 122 rushing yards per game in 2017.
Keep in mind that this is just the second year of life in FBS for Charlotte. They’ll get better with time and expanded recruiting capabilities. However, in the mean time, head coach Brad Lambert faces the very real possibility of going winless this season with their remaining schedule not getting any easier.
WKU was flat last week, but still managed to squeak by with a victory. Even if they turn in a similar day, Charlotte doesn’t have the offensive tools to get past a Tops defense that has actually been much better than the team’s record indicates. Look for the Tops to win this one 21-10.