Thursday night’s Conference USA matchup will probably be overshadowed by the start of the NFL season, but those that prefer the collegiate game have the chance to be treated to a real shootout between the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs and the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in what could be a C-USA Title Game preview. Here’s a preview and a free pick of this matchup.
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs vs. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
Date/Time: Thursday, September 10, 8:00 pm ET
TV: Fox Sports 1
College Football Betting Favorite: Pick ‘em
Early line movement has been on the road team, as Louisiana Tech has gone from a 1.5-point underdog to a pick ‘em. Also, the under has received the bulk of the betting action, dropping from 67 to 62. Normally Thursday nights are reserved for ACC action on ESPN and Pac-12 football on FS1, but the little guy gets a chance in the spotlight with this C-USA tilt.
Skip Holtz may have hit 7-7-7 on the transfer slot machine again this season. After Iowa transfer Cody Sokol threw 30 touchdown passes last season, he was out of NCAA eligibility and Holtz was back on the “free agent” market to find somebody to step in. Enter former Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel, who was pushed out of the picture in Gainesville after ineffectiveness and injuries. Driskel didn’t need a whole lot of time to have an impact, as he threw four touchdown passes out of 12 completions and racked up 274 yards on the overmatched Southern Jaguars from the FCS. Kenneth Dixon is a legitimate running back, both from behind the line of scrimmage as a runner and in front of it as a receiver. Dixon, a senior, is already the program’s all-time leader in rushing yards and added to it with over 100 yards last game.
The Bulldogs defense was much improved against the run last season, but it’s the pass defense that will get tested in this one. New defensive coordinator Blake Baker was the safeties coach and the Bulldogs held the WKU passing attack to just 145 yards last season on 39 attempts. Most of the returning starters on that side of the ball are in the secondary, which means that the Bulldogs should be in good shape.
Jeff Brohm’s team wasn’t supposed to be known for defense, but the Vanderbilt Commodores of the SEC did essentially nothing against the Hilltoppers. WKU gave up some yards, but stopped a game-tying two-point conversion and picked up their biggest win as a Division I FBS program. Brandon Doughty, who threw for over 4,800 yards and 49 touchdowns was held in check. He was 19-of-30 for 209 yards and a score, but he made smart decisions with the football. Leon Allen, a battering ram of a running back at 235 lbs., led the Hilltoppers with 1,542 yards on the ground last season. It’s that type of balance that WKU will need to avoid a tough home loss in this one.
As mentioned, the Hilltoppers defense stepped up in a big way. They allowed 39.9 points and 510 yards per contest last season. However, the Bulldogs have a much better offense than Vanderbilt. Louisiana Tech hung 59 points and 507 yards on the Hilltoppers defense when these two teams met last season in Ruston, LA. Wonderful Terry, a second-team all-conference player, aggravated an ankle injury against the Commodores, but is still listed atop the depth chart for Thursday night’s conference opener.
Louisiana Tech vs. Western Kentucky Free Pick: Western Kentucky Pick ‘Em
It’s a letdown spot for Western Kentucky. They were blown out last season. You’ll hear those two things in the lead-up to this game. The game last year got away from WKU, who was down 10-7 in the second quarter and then things snowballed. With a second-year head coach and the best QB in the conference, the Hilltoppers should bounce back here.
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Good luck this season!