Western Kentucky vs. Jacksonville State kicks off this Tuesday at 7:30pm EST in Jacksonville Alabama as a home game for the Gamecocks. Western Kentucky is currently a -7 favorite and -265 on the moneyline while the total is set at 60.5. Read on for more Western Kentucky vs. Jacksonville State best bets and predictions as defense and injuries all factor into an intriguing under wager.
Western Kentucky Vs. Jacksonville State Prediction & Best Bet
As the college football season moves along, it’s becoming clearer that the Conference USA championship picture is turning into a two-horse race. One of those horses in the race is Western Kentucky, a team largely pegged to take a step back due to a regressing offense and horrific defense. That has yet to be the case as they sit at 4-2 and are tied with Liberty as the favorite to win the conference championship.
While winning is the most important stat at the end of the day, the metrics certainly don’t back up the Hilltoppers early season success as they underwhelm on both sides on the ball. Especially on defense as preseason expectations have hit the nail on the head. Western Kentucky currently ranks 94th in Def Success Rate, 87th in Def Explosiveness, 89th in Def Points per Opportunity, and 82nd in Havoc.
While those metrics scream mediocre, it gets worse when we zero in on their rush defense metrics as the Gamecocks call a heavy dose of the run. This spells potential disaster for the Hilltoppers as their front seven currently ranks 120th in Def Rush PPA, 122nd in Def Rush Success Rate, and 105th in Def Rush Explosiveness. That gives an advantage to the Gamecocks backfield, a unit that ranks 49th in Rush Success Rate.
Where this gets interesting to the benefit of the under is the Gamecocks ground game is currently shrouded with mystery. As of writing, lead running back Malik Jackson is currently listed as doubtful with an undisclosed injury. Worse yet, starting quarterback Logan Smothers and backup quarterback Zion Webb are both listed as questionable as well. They serve as the second and third leading rusher, making it a drastic drop off to their next man up in terms of production.
Even with a clear advantage metrics wise, the injuries will drastically alter the Gamecocks ability to continue to thrive in Rush Success Rate. This slows down their offense, creating a massive swing towards the under anytime their drives stall out mid progression. Factor in the new clock rules, and the clock will be constantly draining while JVST makes minimal gains down the field. Couple their stalled-out ground game with an ability to slow down WKU and this has all the makings for an under ticket.
Western Kentucky Vs. Jacksonville State Prediction & Best Bet: Under 60.5
Western Kentucky Vs. Jacksonville State Betting Odds
Even with underwhelming advanced metrics, oddsmakers still lean towards the Hilltoppers favor as they opened Western Kentucky as a -4.5 favorite. Bettors were quick to back them, ballooning their number all the way up to -7 as of writing. This is largely backed behind the JVST injuries playing a major part than expected, drastically altering the trajectory of their offense.
As for the total, points are expected to be scored at a lightning quick pace as oddsmakers opened the number at 60.5. Bettors believe that number opened a tad too high, backing the under down to as low as 59.5 in some shops. JVST’s offense is expected to slow down while Western Kentucky’s offense has to deal with respectable Gamecock defensive metrics. This creates more stalled out drives for both offensive units, draining precious time off the clock to the benefit of the under.
Western Kentucky Vs. Jacksonville State Key Matchups
Can the Gamecocks secondary slow down the Hilltoppers pass attack?
Austin Reed Vs. Jacksonville State Secondary
While the Gamecocks rush defense has massive advantages against the WKU ground game, it will be up to their secondary to keep them competitive. The Hilltoppers currently call the fifth highest pass play rate in the country, consistently relying on the arm of Austin Reed to shred opposing defenses.
Western Kentucky has a pair of #NFLDraft prospects that have shined for the Hilltoppers this season and both appear to have draftable grades
QB Austin Reed has made some high-level throws and ranks in the nation’s top 15 in passing pic.twitter.com/RrcNfULGxT
— Nick Muzzillo (@bigmuzz26) October 11, 2023
Even at a high play rate, WKU still underwhelms in passing metrics as they currently rank 61st in Pass PPA and 77th in Pass Success Rate. While this may spell doom against a JVST secondary that ranks 91st in Def Pass PPA in the red zone, they are at least able to slow them down in the mid field by ranking 39th in Def Pass Success Rate.