Photo via WKU Athletics Photo
Day: Tuesday, December 20
Time: 7PM Eastern
Place: FAU Stadium – Boca Raton, FL
Watch: ESPN, WatchESPN app
Tonight’s matchup in Boca Raton, Florida begins the next batch of bowl games in this postseason by pitting Western Kentucky (10-3) against Memphis (8-4). This will prove to be a great night of football, and both teams will get to flex their offensive strengths in an all-out point-for-point brawl.
Strengths for Western Kentucky:
The Hilltoppers are on a 7-game winning streak, and it’s a mistake to ever underestimate a team with that kind of momentum. In a neutral-zone game with such high stakes, any kind of advantage is important, and WKU might be riding an unstoppable wave.
WKU is second in the nation in scoring this year, seemingly always able to score a touchdown. The keystone to this high-powered offense is junior QB Mike White, who threw for over 4,000 yards this season.
White’s right hand man, Taywan Taylor, received 1,586 of those yards, and is sure to showcase his talents tonight on the field.
Weaknesses for Western Kentucky:
The Hilltoppers come into this bowl at a very tumultuous time. Their current interim head coach is Nick Holt, who was expected to get the head coaching job next year. Instead, WKU will bring in Notre Dame offensive coordinator Mike Sanford. Will Holt be able to take charge of a quality program for this one game, or will the team’s talent be wasted while he is distracted by his uncertain future?
WKU has a pass defense ranked 110th in the nation, which does not bode well against the high-powered offense of the Memphis Tigers.
Despite their 10-3 record, WKU will be challenged by a team who has played a much more rigorous schedule than their previous Conference USA opponents.
Strengths for Memphis:
The Tigers have a promising offense that might very well be able to outscore the Hilltoppers. They average 517.4 yards per game, and QB Riley Ferguson has thrown 3,326 yards on the season thanks in part to his talented team of receivers that creates numerous exploitable matchups.
Memphis is in the AAC, which has been on the rise lately. This means that they’ve tested themselves—and have several times succeeded—against much more difficult teams. They may not have 10 wins like their opponent, but they earned their eight wins in much more hard-fought matchups.
Momentum will be key for the Tigers. Yes, they’re not on a 7-game win streak, and that’ll hurt them against a program like WKU, but they are coming off a win against Houston, who for the past two years has been a powerful program and difficult opponent. They may not be as fired up, but they come into this game confident in their abilities as a team.
Weaknesses for Memphis:
This weakness is huge and may cost Memphis the game if they’re not careful: defense. The Tigers have had gaping holes in both their rush and pass defense all year, and if they don’t patch them up and start playing smarter, WKU could dominate the game.
This will undoubtedly be a very high scoring game. Memphis will win, but not by much. They’ve been tested against a more challenging schedule and they are the more composed team, but the Hilltoppers have an explosive offense and a strong offensive line to protect them. It could go either way in the end, but Memphis will win by less than a touchdown.
Nicholai Babis is a sophomore International Studies major at Vassar College. He specializes in College Football. He is a lifelong Seminoles fan, as well as a Rays fan and a Tampa Bay Bucs fan. He grew up in Tampa, Florida. He is a co-owner of the JR report and works for Athletics at Vassar College. He is the college football contributor at the JR Report. Follow Nicholai on twitter @nibabis . Hit him up if you want to discuss CFB, NFL, golf, tennis, and more.