Memphis (8-4) vs Western Kentucky (10-3)
When: Tuesday, December 20th 2016
Where: FAU Football Stadium, Boca Raton, FL
Time: 7:00 ET | TV: ESPN
The Memphis Tigers and Western Kentucky Hilltoppers will be making their third consecutive Bowl appearance when they meet Tuesday night in the Boca Raton Bowl. Head coach Jeff Brohm, who led the Hilltoppers to their second straight Conference USA championship this year, was hired by Purdue on December 5th and defensive coordinator Nick Holt takes over in the interim for the bowl game. Western Kentucky closed out the season by winning their final seven games, capped by a 58-44 victory over Louisiana Tech in the C-USA championship game. The Hilltoppers rank second in the FBS with a scoring average of 45.1 points and increased that number up to 52.1 over the last nine. Western Kentucky is aiming for its third straight bowl win after knocking off Central Michigan 49-48 in the 2014 Bahamas Bowl and beating South Florida 45-35 in the 2015 Miami Beach Bowl. The Hilltoppers’ offense is led by quarterback Mike White, who passed for 4,027 yards, 34 touchdowns and six interceptions. His top target was senior wide receiver Taywan Taylor, who accumulated 1,586 yards and caught 16 of those TD passes, including two in the C-USA title game. Western Kentucky’s defense held three of its last five opponents under 10 points and recorded as many sacks (five) as rushing yards allowed against Louisiana Tech.
Memphis finished tied for third in the American Athletic Conference West Division a year removed from having to replace head coach Justin Fuente and quarterback Paxton Lynch. New coach Mike Norvell and quarterback Riley Ferguson get the ball rolling. Memphis won three of the last four games to improve its bowl position, including knocking off then-No. 20 Houston 48-44 in the regular-season finale. The Tigers average 39.5 points and racked up 555 yards of total offense in the win over the Cougars. Ferguson saved his best for last, passing for 409 yards with four TDs and no interceptions against Houston to cap a 3,326-yard season. Ferguson’s season places him second on the school’s all-time single-season throwing yards’ list behind Lynch’s total of 3,776 from last season. Tigers freshman Tony Pollard was named the AAC’s Special Teams Player of the Year after ranking third in the nation with 993 kickoff return yards and tied for third with two kickoff return touchdowns. The Tigers give up a ton of yards, ranking 90th in total defense (442.7) and 85th against the run (200.2).
I think Western Kentucky has too much offense for Memphis to keep up. The Hilltoppers defense has been playing much better lately as well. This seems like a small enough number to lay.
Pick: Western Kentucky -5