My math model favors Western Kentucky by 8.5-points in the Boca Raton Bowl. The compelling issue is whether the Hilltoppers are distracted and/or disappointed by the departure of head coach Jeff Brohm.
After compiling an impressive 30-10 record over three seasons at Western Kentucky, Brohm departed shortly after the conclusion of the regular season for the vacant head coaching position at Purdue.
Defensive coordinator Nick Holt will serve as the interim head coach for tonight’s bowl game. Holt has head coaching experience (2004-2005 at Idaho), and I expect the Hilltoppers to respond with an inspired effort on his behalf tonight.
Western Kentucky possesses an explosive offense (led by South Florida transfer QB Mike White) that is averaging 45.1 points and 517 total yards per game at 7.6 yards per play against teams that would combine to allow just 6.1 yards per play to a mediocre offense.
The Hilltoppers are also averaging 41.5 points and 452 total yards per game at 6.7 yards per play on foreign soil this season, which further supports my free sports pick on the favorite.
Overall, Western Kentucky’s attack is 1.5 yards per play better than average, which is certainly good enough to exploit a pedestrian Memphis defense (5.7 yards per play to teams that would combine to average 5.7 yards per play).
What many don’t know is the fact that the Hilltoppers also possess a solid defense that has been 0.3 yards per play better than average in 2016 (5.4 yards per play to teams that would combine to average 5.7 yards per play). Despite its recent output – 51, 42, 34 and 48 points, respectively, Memphis’ offense enters the Boca Raton Bowl overrated.
Specifically, the Tigers’ attack is just 0.5 yard per play better than average (6.4 yards per play against teams that would combine to allow 5.9 yards per play).
The Hilltoppers’ stop unit will quickly make Memphis one-dimensional based upon their run defense that is limiting opponents to just 99 rushing yards at 3.0 yards per carry this season. However, Memphis has very good special teams that should help with field position.
Kick returner Tony Pollard is currently ranked 3rd in the nation with 993 kick-off return yards (2 touchdowns). The Tigers also have a reliable placekicker in Jake Elliott, who is 10-for-11 from 40-49 yards this season. But, that is not enough to dissuade me from taking Western Kentucky as today’s free sports pick.
Western Kentucky is on a 7-game winning streak after taking down Louisiana Tech for the Conference USA title, and the Hilltoppers are focused on securing a school-record 4th-straight bowl win.
Not to be discounted, Memphis closed the season with three wins (and covers) in its final four games, including a 48-44 upset over Houston on November 25.
The Tigers’ defense allowed 50+ points in five games and 500+ total yards in seven games this season. Those statistics are relevant in that Memphis is 6-57 SU and 10-52 ATS in games in which is allowed 40 or more points. Western Kentucky has scored 40+ points in 24 of its last 31 games overall!
With Memphis standing at 1-6 ATS in its last seven games versus .501 or greater opposition and 3-13-1 ATS in its last sixteen games on grass surfaces (Western Kentucky is 16-6 ATS on grass), lay the points with the Hilltoppers as Oskeim Sports’ Free Sports Pick for Tuesday, December 20.
Oskeim Sports’ Free Sports Pick: Western Kentucky (-6.5)
Be sure to check back daily for more quality free sports picks from Oskeim Sports.