Western Kentucky heads down to West Texas for a Conference USA clash with UTEP on Saturday (11/4/23). Get Western Kentucky vs. UTEP odds, picks and predictions below, as our best bet is UTEP to cover a spread of +8.5.
Western Kentucky vs. UTEP Prediction
It’s been far from a perfect season for either of these teams, who are both farther below their preseason win totals than anticipated. But it’s not too late to turn things around. Just ask Western Kentucky, which pulled off a nice in-season turnaround last year. The Hilltoppers were sitting at .500 around midseason last year, then went on a run to finish 9-5 and win the New Orleans Bowl.
That was their second consecutive season with nine wins, including one in a bowl. They achieved the same success in 2019. That’s been the standard under head coach Tyson Helton, who inherited a team that had gone 3-9 in 2018. At 4-4, WKU can still crack nine wins, but it would take an undefeated end to the regular season and another bowl victory.
It’s a similar story for UTEP. Back in 2018, Dana Dimel inherited a team that had just gone 0-12. And while he went 1-11 in each of his first two seasons, the athletic department’s patience would eventually be rewarded. The team showed promise in the shortened 2020 season, and even reached a bowl in 2021 before stumbling a bit with a disappointing 5-7 campaign last season.
Now, they’re 3-6, and if they lose to Western Kentucky this week, it’s hard to see them finishing with better than 4-8. They close the season against Liberty, the best team in the conference. The Miners have worked hard to build some positive momentum around the program. It would be a shame for this season to become a lost one.
These teams have very different offensive approaches. WKU is driven by a fairly prolific and efficient passing attack, while UTEP is more balanced, if not skewed toward the run. Both teams are definitely offense-first.Tthere’s not a solid defense to be found anywhere in this matchup. Both rank outside the top 100 by EPA per play.
Western Kentucky should definitely be favored. But given how similarly these teams grade in so many key areas, it’s hard to understand why bettors are expected to lay over a full touchdown with them on the road. UTEP’s pass defense is at least competent enough to keep them in this one, and their run game is well-suited to go after a weak WKU front seven.
The total is pretty well-set in the mid 50s. So even though this game should feature plenty of points, let’s bet on the multi-score home underdog here, a strategy that, in the long run, will usually pay off.
Western Kentucky vs. UTEP Prediction: UTEP +8.5
Western Kentucky vs. UTEP Best Odds
Western Kentucky is an 8.5 point road favorite, or alternatively, you can grab them at -350 on the moneyline. UTEP is a big underdog at home, at +260 on the moneyline, and the total is set at a fairly normal although slightly high number of 54.5, with -110 odds on either side.
Western Kentucky vs. UTEP Key Matchups
These two teams implement pretty different offensive styles, so we’ll see which one shines the brightest this Saturday, and which defense is able to make the key stops.
Western Kentucky Air Offense vs. UTEP Pass Defense
The Hilltoppers have leaned on the pass this year, and done so effectively. They’re the 55th-best air unit in the country by EPA per play. The star has been quarterback Austin Reed, who ranks 14th in the country and tops in C-USA with 2,280 passing yards and 20 touchdowns to just five interceptions. He’s been smart with the football. His top target is junior wideout Malachi Corley, who cracked 100 catches and nearly 1,300 yards with 11 scores last year. He is well on his way to another nice final stat line this year.
The UTEP pass defense is 77th in the country in EPA per play, so essentially average, although their success rate is a bit stronger. Top corner AJ Odums has been the brightest spot in a very questionable secondary, with a team-high 70.7 coverage grade from PFF, who ranks the overall coverage unit 120th. The same grading system considers the Miners to have the country’s second-best pass rush, with three players at five or more sacks. Edge duo Maurice Westmoreland and Praise Amaewhule have been the stars, both boasting a pass rush win rate over 16%.
UTEP Run Game vs. Western Kentucky Ground Defense
The Miners have struggled a good bit on offense this season, but they’ve run the ball pretty well, at a clip of 4.1 yards per carry. That’s good enough to propel them to the 79th best EPA per play on rushing offense in the country. PFF considers the Miners O-line to be the 10th-best run blocking unit in the nation, driven by the outstanding guard duo of Elijah Klein and Justin Mayers. Deion Hankins and Torrance Burgess Jr. have split the rushing duties almost evenly, although the latter has been more effective, racking up 5.5 yards per carry.
The WKU run defense is one of the worst in the country, ranking 122nd in EPA per play. Their opponents are running for an even 5.0 yards per carry this season, and racking up almost 220 yards per game. Linebackers Desmyn Baker and Devon Lynch have been pretty solid, as has edge rusherJaQues Evans. But almost the rest of the unit has undeerachieved.