College Football Picks: Western Kentucky vs. UL Monroe

Jeff Grant

Monday, September 30, 2013 2:07 PM GMT

The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers will have revenge on their minds against the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks, as the two teams meet up Thursday night.

Let’s take a closer look at the college football odds for this Sun Belt Conference matchup at Malone Stadium, with the opening kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU.

Take a look at my College Football Picks: Opening Odds Report for Week 6.

Quite a performance against the run

Western Kentucky has won two games in a row, including a 19-7 victory over the Navy Midshipmen as 3.5-point home underdogs last Saturday—winning the statistical battle by 234 yards.

The Hilltopers held the Midshipmen to just 107 yards rushing—well below the 398 yards that program averaged through its first two contests. 

Over the last two-plus seasons, the program is 6-2 SU and 7-1 ATS in October, with the OVER going 5-3 in that situation. 

A major injury

Louisiana-Monroe is 2-3 SU and 1-4 ATS through five games of the 2013 campaign, as it prepares for life without star quarterback Kolton Browning, who is doubtful to return this season due to a torn quad muscle.

The senior became the school’s all-time career passing leader in last Saturday’s 31-14 defeat to Tulane as 11.5-point home favorites. 

Sophomore Brayle Brown is expected to make his first collegiate start Thursday. 

Overtime thrillers 

College football handicappers may elect to grab the points in this rivalry, considering the last two games in this series have been decided in overtime, including a 43-42 Warhawks’ victory as three-point road underdogs last season. 

It’s important to point out that Western Kentucky led that game by a comfortable 28-7 margin in the second quarter, while it managed to win the statistical battle by 64 yards. 

Turnovers

There’s no doubt that the No. 1 priority in this game is protecting the football, as both sides enter with a matching minus-10 turnover margin, which ranks 121st out of 123 teams nationally.

With no threat of Browning under center, Western Kentucky’s defense will likely focus on stopping the run, which could cause Brown into making major mistakes.

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Prediction

I'm going to recommend that readers back the Hilltoppers with their college football picks, as the Warhawks have failed to cover their three losses this season by an average of 24.6 points. 

College Football Pick: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers -5