Sun Belt Thursday Night College Football Betting Picks: Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders at Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders at Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
Thursday, November 1, 2012, 9:15 pm Eastern, TV: ESPNU
Smith Stadium – Bowling Green, Kentucky
Opening Line: Western Kentucky -10
Current Line: Western Kentucky -9 1/2
Opening Total: 54
Current Total: 54
Opening Money Line: WKU -335 / MTSU +285
Current Money Line: WKU -350 / MTSU +290

Western Kentucky is a 9.5 point favorite at home against Middle Tennessee Thursday night in Sun Belt action.

The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders and Western Kentucky Hilltoppers meet for the 63rd time Thursday night in Bowling Green. The Blue Raiders lead the series 32-29-1, including 13-16 at Western Kentucky. MTU has won 11 of the last 15, but WKU won last year in Murfreesboro 36-33 in double overtime. Both teams are 3-1 in the Sun Belt, tied with Arkansas St for second in the Sun Belt behind 4-0 Louisiana-Monroe.

Middle Tennessee is 5-3 overall, under coach Rick Stockstill. The Blue Raiders have home losses to McNeese St 27-21 and ULM 31-17, along with a 45-3 loss at Mississippi St. MTU has home wins over Florida Atlantic 31-17, and last week against North Texas 38-21, along with road wins at Memphis 48-30, Georgia Tech 49-28, and Florida International 34-30. The Blue Raiders are 5-3 ATS and the total is 4-3 this season. Middle Tennessee was a 3.5 point favorite in the North Texas game, and the total was 58.5.

Middle Tennessee is averaging 424.4 yards per game, including 244 passing yards and 180.4 rushing yards. The Blue Raiders are outscoring teams 30-29 this season. Middle Tennessee is +3 in turnovers with 14 giveaways. The Blue RaidersĀ  average 52 penalty yards per game and have allowed 7 sacks this season. MTU is 53/112 on third and fourth down conversions and 27/33 scoring in the red zone with 19 touchdowns. The Blue Raiders are allowing 441.2 yards per game on defense, including 254.5 passing yards and 186.8 rushing yards. MTU is 91st or worse out of 124 FBS teams in all three categories. The Blue Raiders have forced 17 turnovers and 12 sacks. MTU opponents are 68/129 on third and fourth down conversions, and 29/35 scoring in the red zone including 24 touchdowns.

Middle Tennessee quarterback Logan Kilgore has completed 152 of 227 passes (67%) for 1,930 yards with 12 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He has been sacked 6 times but does have 34 rushing yards and a touchdown. Leading rusher Benny Cunningham is out for the season with a knee injury. He had 97 carries for 600 yards and 11 touchdowns, along with 9 catches for 109 yards. Jordan Parker has 73 carries, 334 yards, and a touchdown. Drayton Calhoun has 59 carries, 218 yards and 2 touchdowns. Reggie Whatley and Jeremiah Bryson will likely get more carries without Cunningham. Both had around 3 or 4 carries a game previously. Receiver Anthony Amos has 53 catches, 794 yards and 6 touchdowns. Kyle Griswould has 29 catches, 386 yards and 3 touchdowns. Christian Collis has 15 catches, 160 yards and 2 touchdowns. Receiver Marcus Henry had 9 catches, 182 yards and a touchdown, but he is out for the season with a broken ankle.

Western Kentucky is 6-2 under coach Willie Taggart. The Hilltoppers have losses at Alabama 35-0 and at home against Louisiana-Monroe 43-42 in overtime. Western Kentucky has home wins over Austin Peay 49-10 and Southern Miss 42-17, along with road wins at Kentucky 32-31 in overtime, at Arkansas St 26-13, Troy 31-26, and last week at Florida International 14-6. The Hilltoppers are 7-1 ATS and the total is 4-3. WKU was a 5.5 point favorite and the total was 51.5.

Western Kentucky is averaging 396.6 yards per game including 211.8 passing yards and 184.9 rushing yards. The Hilltoppers are outscoring teams 30-23 this season. Western Kentucky is +2 in turnovers with 14 turnovers. The Hilltoppers are averaging 67 penalty yards a game and has allowed 18 sacks this season. WKU is 59/117 on third and fourth down conversions and 29/35 scoring in the red zone with 25 touchdowns. On defense, Western Kentucky is allowing 319.4 yards per game, including 211.9 passing and 107.5 rushing yards. The Hilltoppers are #18 nationally in both rushing and total defense. WKU has forced 16 turnovers and 29 sacks. Hilltopper opponents are 47/122 on third and fourth down conversions and 18/24 scoring in the red zone with 13 touchdowns.

Western Kentucky quarterback Kawaun Jakes has completed 129/185 passes (69.7%) for 1,515 yards with 15 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, along with 43 carries, 28 yards and 2 touchdowns. Running back Antonio Andrews has 165 carries, 917 yards and 7 touchdowns, along with 23 catches, 260 yards and a touchdown. He also returns kicks and punts for Western Kentucky and has over 1,500 all-purpose yards with a 70 yard punt return for a touchdown. Leon Allen has 55 carries, 317 yards and 2 touchdowns. Fullback Kadeem Jones has 15 carries for 78 yards with 2 touchdowns, along with 11 catches, 126 yards and 3 touchdowns. Tight end Jack Doyle has 37 catches, 387 yards and 3 touchdowns. Receiver Willie McNeal has 23 catches, 306 yards, and 4 touchdowns. Boe Brand and Mitchell Henry will also get significant targets. Henry only has 9 catches, but 3 of them went for touchdowns.

Middle Tennessee is 4-0 ATS after gaining more than 450 yards, 5-2 overall, 2-5 in road games against teams with winning home records, and after a straight up win, 7-19 after passing for more than 280 yards, 2-6 after a cover, 1-6 against teams with winning records, 0-5 in Thursday games, and 0-4 in November.

Western Kentucky is 8-0 ATS after allowing less than 100 rushing yards, 6-0 after allowing less than 20 points, 4-0 in Thursday games, and after scoring less than 20 points, 11-1 after a straight up win, 10-1 in November, 9-1 on fieldturf, 6-1 at home, 5-1 against teams with winning records, 21-5 overall, 20-6 in Sun Belt games, 16-5-1 after passing for less than 170 passing yards, and 19-7 after a cover.

The loss of Cunningham hurts Middle Tennessee, because he was their leading rusher and an important part of their passing attack as well. I like Western Kentucky to win and cover at home, and keep pace with first place Louisiana-Monroe.

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