Start Time: 11 AM CT
Streaming: Watch ESPN
Radio: Hilltopper Radio Network, and local radio affiliates.
Betting: Vanderbilt is favored by 9.5, according to Oddsshark.
The Series: Vanderbilt leads the all time series 4-1. The last two games were decided by less than three points. In 2015, WKU won 14-12 in Nashville. Then in 2016, Vandy hung on for a 31-30 win in Bowling Green.
Western Kentucky fell last week to a Florida Atlantic team that’s rising through the ranks of C-USA. All things considered, they actually played pretty well. They’re back to being the #1 passing offense in the league averaging 309.4 yards through the air. The passing attack has also generated 14 touchdowns, with 12 of those coming in the last three games.
The running game hasn’t been nearly as good with a league worst 83.3 yards per game. But the offense has looked like the Tops of the past three years spreading it around, which has helped them get to 5-3 in the year. 17 different receivers have caught a pass from Mike White with 8 of them catching a touchdown. That plan of attack needs to continue this week if WKU wants to grab the first win over a P5 team of the Mike Sanford era.
For Vanderbilt, they haven’t exactly shined in any particular area this season. The Commodores are coming off of five straight losses, albeit to some solid competition in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Ole Miss, and South Carolina. Their three wins this year were against Middle Tennessee, Alabama A&M, and Kansas State, all in the first three weeks of the season.
Vandy ranks near the bottom in most statistical categories in the SEC including #12 in total offense, last in rushing offense, and #104 in FBS in opponent yards per game. Their strongest piece to lean on in terms of the offense is going to be QB Kyle Shurmur. Shurmur has thrown for 1664 yards this year, which is the fifth most in the SEC.
Vandy will also get some good production out of their defensive front against a WKU offensive line that’s improving, but still figuring it all out. The Tops will particularly have to watch for linebackers Charles Wright, who has tallied a respectable 7 sacks so far, and Oren Burks.
Even if Vandy isn’t one of the best teams in the P5, they still have plenty of talent that can’t be overlooked. That being said, this WKU has shown some spectacular improvement in the past month or so and gone back to the passing attack that these players are more accustomed to. But while it pains me to say it, Vandy will probably win another close one at home by 7, in my mind.