Miami Beach Bowl
It was always going to be a good season for Western Kentucky as long as its senior quarterback stayed healthy and that’s exactly what happened. The Hilltoppers rolled through the C-USA and finished 11-2. They’ll take on a South Florida team that really picked it up at the end of the season and finished 8-4 overall. Still, the high-scoring Hilltoppers opened as a -3.5 point favorite in the Miami Beach Bowl at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
WKU had an impressive campaign highlighted by a 45-28 win in the Conference title Game, which meant they won nine of their last 10 Games by at least 16 points. Their lone losses came at Indiana (38-35) and LSU (48-20). The Hilltoppers may not have the best defense, but with an offense that scores 44 points per Game, that doesn’t matter as much.
South Florida’s season was a bit different, starting the season 1-3, partly due to a difficult Schedule, but that didn’t affect things later in the year. The Bulls dominated in their final three Games, with back-to-back big wins over Temple (44-23) and Cincinnati (65-27). This team was led by defense for most of the year, but scoring 44 points against the Owls was impressive.
The USF defense will need to be on its Game for this one against quarterback Brandon Doughty. He has been even better in his senior season, completing 71.8% of his passes for 45 touchdowns and 7 INTs. Even against LSU, Doughty threw for 325 yards and 3 TDs (one pick). USF has played some explosive offenses this year in Memphis and Cincinnati, but the Hilltoppers may be the toughest task yet.
Doughty spreads the ball around a ton, which is part of the reason for his success. Taywan Taylor leads the group (1,363 yards, 17 TDs), but Four other receivers have at least 38 receptions and 560 yards. Three more receivers have at least seven touchdowns. Success in the passing Game has led to success in the ground Game with Anthony Wales and D’Andre Ferby combining for 1,590 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Southern Miss was playing good defense, but Doughty made easy work of them in the C-USA title Game. Will that be the case for South Florida?
No matter, the Bulls will need to score, that’s for sure. In his first season as the team’s starting QB, Quinton Flowers has improved in the final month, throwing 11 touchdowns in the last Four Games, while having 21 on the year. But unlike Doughty, Flowers’ main threat is with his legs, rushing for 883 yards and 10 TDs. That combined with running back Marlon MACk (1,273 yards, 8 TDs) — who has been unstoppable most of the season with 100 yards in seven of his last eight Games — should cause plenty of problems for the WKU defense that gave up points to viable offenses.
Strange enough, the Hilltoppers actually allowed 28 points Four different times this season. South Florida’s goal should be to surpass that number because WKU will likely be at least in the 30’s.
Because of their dominant end-of-season run, the Bulls are 7-1-1 ATS in their last nine Games, while the Hilltoppers have covered in three straight. The over is 6-1 in WKU’s last seven Games vs. a team with a winning record.
Our Pick – South Florida +3