On Thursday (9/28/23), Middle Tennessee faces Western Kentucky in a matchup between Conference USA teams. In this article, find a breakdown of the game with predictions and our best bet of Middle Tennessee +5.5.
Middle Tennessee Vs. Western Kentucky Prediction & Best Bet
Middle Tennessee has had a brutal schedule to start the season as the Blue Raiders have played Alabama and Missouri, two ranked SEC teams, on the road, in addition to a matchup with a tough Colorado State team last week. It’s no surprise that they’re 1-3 with that schedule, but they could be undervalued as they get into conference play.
Meanwhile, Western Kentucky has benefited from softball games against South Florida and Houston Christian on their way to a 2-2 record. Despite the easier schedule, the Hilltoppers actually rank outside the top 60 in offensive EPA/play and success rate.
The Hilltoppers lost a lot from last year’s offense, including two starting linemen and offensive coordinator Ben Arbuckle. As a result, Austin Reed’s efficiency has declined – he’s down to 6.7 yards per attempt from 7.8 last year. Malachi Corley remains as one of the best receivers in the conference after finishing with nearly 1,300 yards and 11 touchdowns last year.
Middle Tennessee’s Nicholas Vattiato has been very efficient this season, and his 80.4% adjusted completion rate ranks fourth in the Group of Five per PFF. He’s also taking much better care of the football – his 2.9% turnover-worthy play rate is down from 8.7% over his first two seasons.
Keep in mind that production has come against two SEC defenses. Against Missouri, he finished with a stellar 85.3 PFF passing grade. Vattiato seems to have elevated his game tremendously over his first two seasons.
Western Kentucky returned just three starters on defense this season, and it has resulted in them ranking a horrid 125th out of 133 FBS teams in EPA per play allowed. Middle Tennessee hasn’t fared that much better at 107th – hence the over/under of 60.5 points – but again, that came against much better competition.
The Hilltoppers are 7-1 straight up in their last 8 games against the Blue Raiders, and while the books expect them to win again here, the spread suggests this will be a close matchup. I like Middle Tennessee to keep this one close and I’ll pick them to cover the spread.
Middle Tennessee Vs. Western Kentucky Prediction & Best Bet: Middle Tennessee +5.5
Middle Tennessee Vs. Western Kentucky Betting Odds
MTSU @ WKU
Sep. 28, 6:30 PM
Odds updated September 28th, 2023, at 9:43 pm
After this game opened with a spread of 8.5, action hit the underdog Middle Tennessee and pushed the spread to 5.5. The over/under for this game sits at 60.5, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see the under take action if the weather becomes a clear factor. Keep an eye on the forecast before placing a bet on the total.
Middle Tennessee Vs. Western Kentucky Key Matchups
In this C-USA game, there are a handful of matchups that will be critical to determining the outcome. Let’s take a look at two key matchups here.
Malachi Corley Vs. Middle Tennessee Secondary
If Middle Tennessee wants to keep this game close, they need to find a way to slow down Malachi Corley. After leading the team with 101 catches for 1,293 yards and 11 touchdowns last year, Corley has 21 catches for 250 yards and two scores through four games this season. He’s received NFL buzz early this draft cycle.
Middle Tennessee’s pass defense has been shaky to start this season and they rank 127th in PFF coverage grades. They’re also 121st in EPA per pass allowed. Austin Reed will be looking to test that secondary repeatedly on Thursday night, and Corley will be his top target as usual.
Western Kentucky WR Malachi Corley is an absolute menace with the ball in his hands.
One play he’ll be shot out of a cannon and sprint past you, the next he’ll run right through you.
Better not try to arm tackle this dude. pic.twitter.com/5wg5IijqUk
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) September 25, 2023
Jaiden Credle Vs. Western Kentucky Run Defense
Middle Tennessee has a deep stable of running backs, but Jaiden Credle seems to have emerged as the team’s leading rusher. He leads the team with 186 yards so far this season and is running at a highly efficient 6.4 YPC clip. Two weeks ago, he torched Murray State with 132 yards and a score.
If the weather becomes a significant factor on Thursday, the Blue Raiders might need to run the ball more than they usually do. Western Kentucky ranks 128th in EPA allowed against the run, so Credle could have plenty of success given the matchup.
JAIDEN. CREDLE. 💨
— Conference USA (@ConferenceUSA) September 16, 2023