Western Kentucky Hilltoppers will be making their first-ever bowl appearance. Can the Central Michigan Chippewas, playing in their home state, spoil the party for WKU in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl?
The Hilltoppers can win because…
The Hilltoppers should play with great motivation, energy and a
decidedly positive attitude. Despite less than stellar
national rankings on offense, WKU features one of the top
running backs - whom, incidentally, you may never have heard of - in the nation, Antonio Andrews. He has rushed for more than 1,600 yards, including 100+ yards in all but two games, and 11 touchdowns. He saved two of his best
performances for two of the Sun Belt’s toughest opponents,
rushing for 238 yards against Louisiana-Lafayette and 215 against Arkansas
Andrews' accomplishments notwithstanding, the Hilltoppers rely primarily on a defense that ranks in the top 35 against the
pass, against the run and overall. The Hilltoppers held conference champ
Arkansas State to 13 points in a late September win, which at the time
looked like it might spark a serious run at the conference crown. The pass rush averages over
2.5 sacks per game and practically lives in opponents’ backfields, averaging nearly 7.5 tackles
for a loss per game.
Taggart is no longer with the team, having taken the HC position at
South Florida, but after last year’s omission from the postseason, you can
expect the Hilltoppers to bolt from the gate in Detroit. Being
snubbed last season ensures that Western Kentucky will play
well the day after Christmas.
The Chippewas can win because…
Their opponent has shown some cracks on defense and might be distracted
now that Willie Taggart has indeed left for another program.
for all the ways in which it is a feel-good story, did not finish its season
with strength or vigor. The Hilltoppers' defensive front was pushed around at the point of attack. As a result, WKU gave up point totals in the
30’s to teams such as Florida Atlantic, teams that had no business lighting up the
scoreboard. Taggart prides himself on instilling a physical, rugged
mentality in his teams – especially on defense – but Western Kentucky strayed
from that identity late in the 2012 season. Even if you think that Western
Kentucky is still an extension of its former coach, that claim doesn't mean that the
Hilltoppers are guaranteed to play with physicality and great force in this
contest. They could be vulnerable against Central Michigan's offense.
At one point,
Central Michigan was 4-6, but the Chippewas rallied to gain bowl
eligibility and will be playing in their home state, which is a short drive
from their campus. WKU won't be the only motivated team here as the Chippewas
are going to be very, very happy to play in this game as well. In fact, they
might play with more focus since Western Kentucky is going to wonder what life
is like under incoming head coach Bobby Petrino.
Outlook & NCAA Football Betting Prediction:
Will Western Kentucky be distracted or not? That's the
only question worth asking in relationship to this game's outcome? The
sense here is that the Hilltoppers will play with great emotion and conviction.
They will beat Central Michigan by at least two scores.
Football Picks: Western Kentucky -5 at Bookmaker