UTSA locks horns with Western Kentucky once again in the Conference USA title game on Saturday. UTSA has already set a school record for wins in a single season and now has a chance to secure their first-ever conference title. Standing in their way is a gritty Western Kentucky team. The winner gets a trip to the Liberty Bowl, while the loser faces a disappointing end to the season.
Can UTSA Step Up?
UTSA enters the conference title game with a school record of 11 wins. However, the Roadrunners have not played a ranked team, and are coming off their only loss of the season. After winning their first 11 games, UTSA has a chance to show they can win the big game and capture their first conference title.
While UTSA has been a fairly balanced offense all season, quarterback Frank Harris will need to step up again on Friday. In the Roadrunners first matchup against Western Kentucky, Harris threw for 349 yards and 6 touchdowns, leading to a 52-46 victory. De’Corian Clark was his favorite target in the October game, hauling in 7 catches for 160 yards and 3 touchdowns. Undoubtedly, the air raid will be a key part of the Roadrunner’s game plan in the rematch.
Defensively, containment is the key. Nobody has been able to Bailey Zappe and the Western Kentucky passing offense. But UTSA managed to get enough stops last time around to secure a win. The key is to play enough zone defense to keep everything in front of them. If the Roadrunners defense can limit big plays and possibly force a few turnovers, they can give their offense a chance to win.
Western Kentucky Aims To Keep Rolling
Since starting 1-4, Western Kentucky has ripped off 7 straight wins. Their offense has remained electric, while their defense has managed to step up in a major way. The question is whether the Hilltoppers improvement is legitimate, or whether it is a product of an easier schedule.
It is no secret what Western Kentucky will look to do on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Bailey Zappe leads the country with 4,968 yards and 52 touchdowns. With 2 1,000 yard receivers in Jerreth Sterns and Mitchell Tinsley, it is highly unlikely the game plan will change at all. Expect the Western Kentucky offense to throw the ball downfield early and often.
The real question for the Hilltoppers lies on the defensive side of the ball. After an abysmal start to the season, the defense played well down the stretch and did not allow more than 21 points to any team in the final 7 games. UTSA will be the best offense they have faced in recent weeks, so we will find out if the turnaround is permanent or just an aberration.
Everything points to this game being another shootout. Two high-powered offenses square off against vulnerable defenses, and it may be a game where the team that makes the least costly mistakes wins. I expect Western Kentucky to get the best of this rematch, and pick up the Conference USA title with a 55-45 win.
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