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7:30PM EST: Western Kentucky -7 (4 Units)
Lock this in now. Buy the hook if you're at 7.5. Analysis will come but get this in at 7. Line moving.
Jacksonville State has had a solid start to it's FBS career but they've played an incredibly weak schedule. This was a division 2 football team last year and they're starting to play like it. They don't have the bodies or the depth on defense which makes sense for a team that had been working with limited scholarships all these years. They've allowed a combined 1,420 yards and explosive plays on 14.3% of drop backs over their last 3 games.
Western Kentucky has the best passing attack in this conference and they throw it a lot. QB Austin Reed's thrown the ball at least 34 times in each game and averages 41 pass attempts per game this season. They've also played one of the toughest non-conference schedules in Conference USA. Playing South Florida, Troy, and Ohio State. Conference USA is arguably the worst in the FBS but WKU can compete with the mid majors. Austin Reed threw for 4,744 yards last year and he's about to start lighting it up again.
They've played just 2 conference games so far this season, each of their last 2 games and are 2-0. Reed's thrown for 297 yards exactly in back to back starts against Louisiana Tech and Middle Tennessee. His numbers should have looked much better against LT. That game ended 35-28 but WKU didn't score a point in the 2nd half. It was no fault of Reeds.
3 straight 2nd half drives were ended by his receivers. The turf monster tripped up Jimmy Holiday for a 6 yard gain when they needed 7. He could have walked to a first down. Then KD Hutchinson dropped a crossing route on 3rd and 4 that would have been at least a 30 yard again. Then Easton Messer decided to join in on the fun and drop a crossing route without a defender within 10 yards. They just came out flat in the 2nd half of that game.
Coming off a bye week against this weak JSU defense, Reed's poised for a monster day. Reed's actually thrown for the most yards on the Ohio State Buckeye's defense of any QB this season. That includes the likes of Maryland's Taulia Tagovailoa and Notre Dame's Sam Hartman. The kid can flat out play and threw for more than 320 yards in 9 of his 13 games last season. He still has his #1 WR from last year too in Malachi Morley. He had 8 catches for 207 yards and 3 touchdowns against Louisiana Tech.
Jacksonville States offense really struggles to move the ball through the air. They rank dead last in Conference USA averaging just 158.6 passing yards per game. They're 2nd with 204.6 rushing yards per game but you can't run the ball when you're playing from behind. Western Kentucky's defensive numbers are a bit skewed having played the tough non conference games but they've allowed just 38 combined points in 2 conference games. 10 points to Middle Tennessee and 28 to Louisiana Tech. If the Hilltoppers offense didn't completely implode in the 2nd half against LT that 28 is probably more of a 14 too.
They're also tied for first in all of College Football averaging 2.6 takeaways per game against FBS opponents. They rank 22nd in opponent red zone scoring percentage as well. They make plays when they need to and Jacksonville State's offense is banged up. Starting RB Malik Jackson is doubtful for this game. QB Logan Smothers is Questionable with an ankle injury. Even if he does play his rushing ability is limited. Then QB Zion Webb who's played meaningful snaps is Questionable after leaving last weeks game with concussion symptoms.
Western Kentucky has scored on everyone expect for Ohio State this season. Even 24 points on the road against Troy's 10th ranked scoring defense that's allowing just 15.3 points per game. They just have to play their game and a clean one for a full 60 minutes. Jacksonville State's defense isn't going to stop them.