Start Time: 7 PM CT
Streaming: CUSA.TV (Premium Content)
Betting: WKU are favored by 17.5 according to Oddshark.
The Series: WKU won their only other meeting with the Miners back in 2014. The final was 35-27 after Western Kentucky scored 21 unanswered points in the second half. That included a 324 passing yard, 3 touchdown day from Brandon Doughty.
The Tops got back to 2-2 on the year last week with a 33-21 win over Ball State at home. The offensive attack looked considerably better controlling the ball and despite the fact that Ball State outgained the Tops, the WKU defense was able to force a few critical turnovers. That included a pick six by senior corner Joe Brown in the final two minutes, which earned him Conference USA Co-Defensive Player of the Week honors.
On offense, The tops were only able to convert 3 of their 7 trips to the red zone into points. That included two interceptions in that area by Mike White. Part of that is decision making on White’s part, but a bigger part is the massive improvement needed in the pass protection. WKU have given up 13 sacks on the year, which ties them with Rice for most in the league, even though Rice has played two more games than the Tops.
Despite this, White is still putting together a solid year, even if it isn’t translating to passing TDs. White is 101 for 153 on the year with 1047 passing yards (which is third in the league). Wideouts Xavier Lane and Lucky Jackson are also sticking out with impressive yardage totals of 157 and 253 yards respectively.
On the UTEP side, a rough year has only gotten rougher in the past week or so. After an 0-5 start, head coach Sean Kugler resigned and was replaced on an interim basis by Mike Price. If you remember, Price was the coach of the Miners from 2004 to 2012 and hasn’t coached since. Going back even further, Price was the national coach of the year in 1997 while with Washington State. He’s apparently coming out of retirement to help try to steer the Miners’ ship in the right direction.
UTEP has had a few bright spots, or more like bright quarters throughout the year. They were tied with UTEP 14-14 at the half last week, they held Arizona scoreless in the first quarter of that game, and they’ve yet to be shutout, which is ... something.
In his media availability this week, WKU offensive coordinator Junior Adams noted that UTEP will be the first 3-4 defense that the Tops have seen in 2017. Absorbing a new defensive scheme along with the added men in the box could prove problematic for a rushing attack that has been inconsistent all year. In addition to having a different leading rusher in each game this year, their rushing production has gone from 100 yards, to 6, to 141, to 52. A
If WKU’s offense is able to cut back on the mistakes late in drives, they’ll be able to pick up a convincing victory. While they’ve had some consistency issues, UTEP’s problems far outweigh those of the Tops. Western will be victorious 35-14.