Western Kentucky (8-4) is playing in its fifth bowl game in the last six years. The Hilltoppers had an impressive bounceback season under first-year head coach Tyson Helton after the team went just 3-9 in 2018 and lost to FCS Central Arkansas to open this season. Western Kentucky scored victories over four Conference USA bowl teams and also beat power-five opponent Arkansas. The Hilltoppers feature the top scoring defense in C-USA, limiting opponents to just 20.1 points per game.
Western Michigan (7-5) is also playing in its fifth bowl game in the last six years and second straight under third-year head coach Tim Lester. The Broncos lost the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Lester’s postseason debut last season. Western Michigan relies heavily on their high-scoring offense, ranked 25th in FBS averaging 34.2 points per game. Senior LeVante Bellamy is ranked ninth in the country with 1,412 rushing yards and was named Offensive Player of the Year in the MAC.
ESPN’s FPI gives Western Michigan a 55.7% chance of winning this game. We break down the line and offer our best bets and analysis for Monday’s First Responder’s Bowl between the Hilltoppers and Broncos.
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Western Kentucky vs. Western Michigan Game Details
Date: Monday, December 30
Time: 12:30 p.m. ET
Location: Gerald J. Ford Stadium (Dallas, Texas)
Spread: Western Kentucky -3.5
This line opened at Western Kentucky -2 and has been bet up to Western Kentucky -3.5 with the majority of the bets and action coming in on the Hilltoppers. This line is correlated to the action and is moving with the market.
- Western Kentucky is 8-4 SU and 8-4 ATS this season
- Western Michigan is 7-5 SU and 5-6-1 ATS this season
- Over is 6-6 in Western Kentucky games this season
- Under is 7-4-1 in Western Michigan games this season
Analysis & Pick
It’s certainly been an odd season for Western Kentucky. After a shocking season-opening loss to an FCS school, the Hilltoppers only losses have come to an ACC opponent and two of the best teams in the conference. Western Kentucky won three straight games to finish strong, including a 45-19 blowout of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Besides Bellamy, there has been nothing really spectacular about Western Michigan this season and will be tough to back in this matchup. I think the 41st-ranked Western Kentucky rush defense will be able to bottle up the all-conference tailback. On the other side, the Broncos defense has allowed at least 35 points in three of its last five games. I like Western Kentucky’s matchup advantage on the outside, with wide receivers Lucky Jackson and Jahcour Pearson. The duo is just one of four in the country to have at least 70 catches each. Give me the Hilltoppers.
PICK: Western Kentucky -3.5
Follow Jared Smith on Twitter: @jaredleesmith