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C-USA Championship Preview

Louisiana Tech and Western Kentucky meet again for all the marbles

NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at Western Kentucky Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Date: Saturday, December 3, 2016

Kickoff Time: 11:00 AM CST

Location: Bowling Green, KY

Stadium: L.T. Smith Stadium

TV: ESPN

Streaming: Watch ESPN

Series Record: Louisiana Tech leads 4-2

Last Meeting: 2016, Louisiana Tech 55-52

Betting Line: WKU -9.5

Over/Under: 82


It was so much fun the first time, let’s do it again.

Seems like the season has just flown by, but it’s already championship week, and the 2016 Dynacraft Conference USA Championship Game will be a rematch of a regular season classic from La Tech and WKU.

This will be the 7th all-time meeting between the two. So far, the home team has always won. There has been one neutral site meeting, the 1973 Camellia Bowl, which was the inaugural Division II national title game and only prior time they met in a championship game. La Tech won that game 34-0. The two most recent games were decided by 3 points; 41-38 WKU in 2015 and 55-52 earlier this season.

NCAA Football: Louisiana Tech at Southern Mississippi Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Their prior meeting this year was a Thursday night game in Ruston in early October. The game was a classic shootout. They started out trading scores before Tech shot out to a 52-31 lead by the end of the 3rd quarter. However, WKU came roaring back and almost won before falling just short. You can read more about that game here.

But that was in Ruston, and as stated before, the home team has always won in this series. This game will be in Bowling Green.

La Tech had the prime opportunity to bring WKU back to Louisiana for the title game before coming up flat last Friday, allowing rival Southern Miss to pull the upset and clinch bowl eligibility after a mostly disappointing season. Meanwhile, WKU slaughtered rival Marshall who seemed mostly uninterested in the game. Last week’s performances have most expecting WKU to roll easily.

NCAA Football: Western Kentucky at Florida Atlantic Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

WKU definitely has momentum coming in to this game. After their loss to La Tech (their only C-USA loss since 2014, coincidentally also to Tech), WKU defeated rival MTSU in 2OT. Since then, no one has been able to come even close to the Hilltoppers, who have won each game after MTSU by an average score of 53-12.2.

La Tech had momentum. WKU was the 2nd win of a 7-game win streak. Their coaches pointed to that game as the turning point of the season. But for the second straight year, a late bye week ended their momentum and they ended the regular season with an uncharacteristically poor performance. Now, we must see if they can get their mojo back.

Players to watch for WKU are highlighted by quarterback Mike White, running back Anthony Wales, and wide receivers Nicholas Norris, Taywan Taylor, and Kylen Towner, who is a monster in the return game. For La Tech, look for quarterback Ryan Higgins and wide receivers Trent Taylor and Carlos Henderson along with Kam McKnight who is a wide receiver but doubles as a running back in short yardage situations. Also watch for defensive end Jaylon Ferguson and running backs Jarred Craft and Boston Scott.

NCAA Football: Louisiana Tech at North Texas Sean Pokorny-USA TODAY Sports

Just like last time I compared these two teams, their stats are strikingly similar. They both average exactly 44.0 points per game. Tech allows an average of 30.6 points to WKU’s 22.4, but WKU didn’t play Texas Tech. They both average over 500 yards a game while also allowing over 300 a game. Expect another shootout in Bowling Green.

Stat wise, WKU has a slight edge defensively. But when they played last, Tech was able to grab a huge lead in the 3rd quarter. Had they been able to hold on, the game wouldn’t have finished as close as it did.

WKU also had a few players out with injury last time. This time, Tech stars Taylor and Henderson may not be 100%.

The biggest question going into this game will be where are the Bulldogs emotionally? Will they limp in, depressed or lacking confidence after the Southern Miss debacle? Or will they use that game as a wake up call and come in with a new sense of determination?

Prediction

It’s hard for me to gauge how Tech will perform. If they are at their peak, they will give us a good game. Skip Holtz remarked that he liked how they had responded in practice this week. But last year, after the bye week they showed up flat against UTEP but won, then the following week got blown out at home by Southern Miss. After failing post-bye this year, can they recover so quickly this year, especially after blowing their chance to host?

WKU has momentum and home field advantage in a series where the home team has never lost. I think Tech will perform better than last week, but it’s gonna be difficult to beat WKU this time around.

WKU 52, La Tech 49