Time and Date: 11 AM CT, Noon ET
Broadcast Network: Stadium
Location: Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium - Bowling Green, KY
Spread: WKU -10.5
ESPN FPI: 76.7% in favor of WKU
All-time Series: FAU leads the all-time series 9-3 with victories in the last four contests
Last meeting: FAU won a low-scoring 10-6 game in Boca Raton in 2020
Currently leading Conference USA’s East division, Western Kentucky’s offense has been a mainstay in the national sports conversation over the last month. After starting 1-4, the Tops have rattled off five consecutive wins to bring their record to 6-4. Graduate transfer quarterback Bailey Zappe leads the entire FBS in both passing touchdowns and passing yards with 42 touchdowns and 4195 yards. Zappe also has nine games of more than 365 passing yards, which is more than any other FBS quarterback this year. FAU head coach Willie Taggart himself said earlier this week that Zappe is “the real deal” and “will be playing on Sundays.”
Taggart’s #1 jersey is retired at Western Kentucky thanks to his own stellar college career with the Tops at quarterback in the late 1990s.
Now leading Florida Atlantic, Taggart will be looking for his team to stop a two-game losing streak. Last week against Old Dominion, the Owls conceded two safeties in a 30-16 loss to the Monarchs. Despite those two losses, South Florida transfer running back Johnny Ford has been playing some of the best football of his college career. He’s totaled over 100 yards on the ground in each of the last few games with an average of 7.5 yards per carry. WKU are towards the bottom of the league in run defense with 21 rushing touchdowns allowed and an average of 4.1 yards allowed per carry. Expect the Owls to rely on Ford and the other components of their rushing attack on Saturday.
If Florida Atlantic want to win this game, the Owls need to start strong and be efficient on offense. An offense that relies on the run game to the extent that FAU does simply is not built to play from behind.
For WKU, a hot start is also important. Most of their major mistakes this year have come in the first and second quarter. Opposing teams know by now that keeping the Tops’ offense off of the field for as long as possible is their key to having a chance at winning. Fortunately for the Tops, they’ve been very efficient in the red zone, scoring 27 times on 30 trips inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. 20 of those 27 scores were touchdowns.
The Western Kentucky passing attack needs to have one of their better days of the year as they prepare to close the season regular season with two huge conference contests. That being said, the inconsistency of Florida Atlantic make it hard to say the Owls are geared for an upset. Expect Zappe and the Tops to get the victory, but they can’t sleepwalk against the program’s former coach.
WKU wins 45-31