Boca Raton Bowl Pick
Here’s yet another team playing without its head coach because they got a job somewhere else. That hasn’t changed much in the spread for the Boca Raton Bowl, though, as Western Kentucky is a -5 point favorite over Memphis.
The Hilltoppers closed the season on a tear and that’s most of the reason they are favored here despite coming out of Conference USA. They won their final seven Games with results over Middle Tennessee, Old Dominion and Louisiana Tech highlighting the streak to finish 10-3 overall.
Memphis finished at 8-4, but playing in the tougher AAC, that’s to be expected. The Tigers picked up at about where they left off last season even with Paxton Lynch gone. The offense still scored close to 40 points per Game and they closed the regular season with a big 48-44 win against Houston.
There’s no doubt there will points in this Game and that’s why the over/under is at 77 points. Both teams can Scoreand neither is all that great defensively. The question will be how Western Kentucky will look without its coach and offensive leader.
The Memphis defense is a bit better, but there’s no reason to expect them to stop the Hilltoppers from scoring. The only team that stopped them all year was Alabama if that says anything. Even Vanderbilt’s solid defense had trouble, although the Commodores won 31-30.
Mike White leads the way for WKU at quarterback with 34 touchdowns and six interceptions. But it’s not him that makes this offense electric, it’s the pieces around him that helped make his transition to starter easy. Taywan Taylor (1,586 yards, 16 TDs) and Nicholas Norris (1,253 yards, 13 TDs) have been unstoppable in the receiving Game with both being seniors. The same can be said for senior running back Anthony Wales who finished with 1,376 yards and 24 touchdowns. In the Conference title Game Game, Wales did it all, going for a combined 262 yards rushing and receiving and five touchdowns.
Memphis has given up points this year to good offenses and that’ll probably happen again. The Tigers gave up 59 to Tulsa and 49 to USF, and had trouble against Navy and Houston as expected.
But on the other side of that, Memphis should have no trouble scoring the ball themselves. They are coming off a Game in which they scored 48 points against a decent Houston defense. When needed, this offense has stepped up and that’ll be key against a bad Western Kentucky defense. In addition, WKU’s defensive coordinator Nick Holt is the interim head coach for this one, so it’ll be interesting to see if that affects the defense at all.
The Tigers haven’t been as lethal as the Hilltoppers, but they have the tools to put points on the board. Quarterback Riley Ferguson has slowly gotten better as the season’s gone on and that culminated in a 409-yard, Four-TD performance in the regular season finale. He doesn’t have the same talent at wide receiver, but Anthony Miller has been just fine with 1,283 yards and 11 touchdowns. The running Game is a trio of guys with Doroland Dorceus leading the way in his senior season.
The question will be if Western Kentucky’s offense is good enough to win yet another Game by itself. Memphis can score, which makes them an easier team to back with this spread.
Neither team was all that great against the spread this year, but the Hilltoppers have covered in five of their last six Games and the Tigers three in their last Four.
Our Pick – Memphis +5