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2021 Boca Raton Bowl: Western Kentucky vs Appalachian State — Three Questions

Western Kentucky’s high-powered offense will look to outduel the App State rushing attack. Boca Raton Bowl - BYU v Central Florida Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Another college football regular season has come and gone, leaving us with memories of what was and what could have been for various programs across the nation.

The 2021 edition of the Boca Raton Bowl will take place on December 18 from the campus of Florida Atlantic University. This year’s edition features Western Kentucky from Conference USA and Appalachian State of the Sun Belt Conference.

Both teams won their conference’s respective East division titles, but fell short in their conference championship games. The Hilltoppers feature one of the nation’s highest-scoring offenses, led by quarterback Bailey Zappe. For the Mountaineers, they’re again led by one of the nation’s top rushing attacks.

According to DraftKings, Appalachian State is a 2.5-point favorite with the over/under set at 67.5 points.*

*Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.

Will Bailey Zappe break the record?

When Western Kentucky head coach Tyson Helton made the decision in the offseason to drastically change his offensive philosophy by hiring Zach Kittley as offensive coordinator, there were high expectations — and just as many question marks as to how the move would fare.

Fast forward to bowl season and the result was a Hilltopper offense that broke several school and conference records, with the Tops far and away leading the nation in passing yards (5,650) and passing touchdowns (57) — led by Kittley and signal-caller Bailey Zappe. Despite being undoubtedly snubbed for national postseason awards, still has an opportunity to break Joe Burrow’s record for passing touchdown in a season (60).

Expect Helton to call on Zappe early and often — with the former FCS standout having his opportunity to leave a lasting mark on the record books.

Can App State score enough to keep up with WKU?

Shawn Clark’s Mountaineers have been excellent on both sides of the ball this year, averaging over 30 points per game while only allowing 19.3. With that being said, Western Kentucky has put away numerous opponents this season in the first half of play, just by the sheer number of points scored. This will undoubtedly be a close game, but given App State’s main method of offense being on the ground, can they keep up in a shootout?

Defense — which unit will step up?

Piggybacking off of App State’s ground game, their defense’s best help will be the offense’s ability to keep the clock running and keep Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe on the sideline. For the Tops, the question will be if their defense, especially against the run will be up to the task of stopping the Mountaineers' attack that averages over 187 yards per contest.