Western Kentucky vs. UTSA Conference USA Championship Game Picks and Predictions

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Jerreth Sterns #8 of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers scores a touchdown against Michigan State in Week 5. Nic Antaya/Getty Images/AFP

The Conference USA Championship Game is Friday night from the Alamodome in San Antonio as UTSA hosts Western Kentucky. Which way to lean at BMR’s top-rated sportsbooks?

Let’s break down the NCAAF odds for this matchup!

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers vs. UTSA Roadrunners 

Friday, December 3, 2021 – 07:00 PM EST at Alamodome

The first conference title game of conference championship weekend kicks off at 7:00 PM EST on Friday as UTSA (Texas-San Antonio) hosts Western Kentucky from the Alamodome in San Antonio. CBS Sports Network has the telecast. 

It’s the first time ever in this game for rising UTSA. Western Kentucky last played in it in 2016 and beat Louisiana Tech in a shootout.  

These clubs did play in the regular season. On Oct. 9 at Western Kentucky, the Roadrunners won 52-46 as QB Frank Harris threw for 346 yards and six touchdowns. He even caught a TD pass in maybe the most impressive game in school history.

Harris threw three touchdown passes to De’Corian Clark, the last a 43-yarder to give UTSA a 52-43 lead with 6:39 left. Clark finished with seven catches for 160 yards. 

Western Kentucky QB Bailey Zappe was no slouch in throwing for 523 yards and five scores. Jerreth Sterns caught 16 passes for 195 yards and two TDs. The Hilltoppers were 3.5-point favorites at BMR’s top-rated sportsbooks that day. 

This is only the third all-time meeting between these schools. WKU won the other in 2014.  

WKU Was C-USA East Champion 

Western Kentucky (8-4) won 53-17 at Marshall on Saturday to win the East Division of Conference USA, the Hilltoppers’ seventh straight victory. This is a very high-powered offense led by QB Bailey Zappe, who leads the nation with 4,968 yards passing and by a mile with 52 touchdown passes.  

The TD passes are both a school and Conference USA record. He is poised to become only the sixth FBS quarterback to ever throw for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in a single season. Texas Tech’s B.J. Symons set the FBS single-season record with 5,833 passing yards in 13 games in 2003, and LSU’s Joe Burrow threw a record 60 TD passes in 2019 on the way to winning the Heisman. 

Zappe, a graduate transfer from Houston Baptist, threw for 328 yards and four scores in the win over the Herd. He threw for more than 220 yards in the third quarter alone, which included touchdown passes of 14, 47 and 50 yards. Daewood Davis caught three balls for 105 yards and two scores. Mitchell Tinsley caught nine passes for 84 yards and has 71 catches for 1,126 yards and 10 TDs on the year.  

Jerreth Sterns was a big quiet with four catches for 28 yards but leads the country with 127 catches and is second with 1,539 yards and tied for fifth with 12 TD grabs.  East Carolina’s Zay Jones set the FBS record with 158 receptions in 12 games in 2016, and Nevada’s Trevor Insley’s 2,060 yards in 11 games in 1999 is the all-time FBS mark. 

WKU trailed Marshall 14-0 in the second quarter but then scored 36 straight points. During this winning streak, Western Kentucky has taken each by at least 15 points with an average margin of victory of 26.4 points. Its defense has not allowed an opponent to score more than 21 points during the stretch. 

The Hilltoppers are 5-2-1 ATS on the NCAAF picks in their past eight as road favorites

UTSA Won C-USA West 

UTSA (11-1) was ranked 15th and unbeaten entering Saturday’s game at North Texas but was upset 45-23 to fall out of the AP Top 25. North Texas converted three first-half fumble recoveries into 21 points and rushed for 340 yards. The loss snapped UTSA school-record streaks for consecutive overall and conference wins at 11 and 10, respectively. 

"I think human nature is we probably weren’t as juiced up as we were last week," Coach Jeff Traylor said, referring to a 34-31 victory over UAB. "But it wasn’t like a bad effort. They were at a 10 and we probably played at an eight. And you turn it over three times in the weather, you’re going to get embarrassed, which we did." 

QB Frank Harris had two turnovers and Traylor didn’t play him after halftime. He finished with just 59 yards passing but did rush for 97 yards and a TD. The senior is a dual-threat, throwing for 2,688 yards and 23 touchdowns while rushing for 484 yards and five scores.  

If this comes down to a field goal to win, UTSA will feel quite comfortable with senior kicker Hunter Duplessis. He has made 49 of 59 field goals in his career and is 23 of 28 in 2021. He now has scored 263 points in his career, breaking the UTSA record for points by a kicker. His 120 points this year are the most in school history. 

UTSA co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Jess Loepp was named one of 15 semifinalists for the Broyles Award, given to the nation’s top assistant coach. He was the only one tabbed from Conference USA.

The Roadrunners’ defense had been great, especially against the run, before it was run over by North Texas. UTSA has pitched two shutouts on the season, the first two in school history.  

The Roadrunners are 8-1 ATS in their past nine after a loss. However, simulations I have run have WKU winning by a field goal, 33-30 for my NCAAF pick.  

NCAAF Pick: Western Kentucky -1.5 (-110) at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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