Western Kentucky (6-4) at Texas State (6-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 23, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bobcat Stadium (30,000) -- San Marcos, Texas. Television: None. Home Record: WKU 2-2, Texas State 4-1. Away Record: WKU 3-2, Texas State 2-3. Neutral Record: WKU 1-0, Texas State 0-0. Conference Record: WKU 2-3 5-1, Texas State 2-3. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: Two teams with identical records will face off at Bobcat Stadium on Saturday when the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers pay a visit to the Texas State Bobcats.
The Hilltoppers have been picking up some steam of late with wins in their last two games. They went out of conference last week to earn their sixth win in 10 tries this season, taking out Army, 21-17, in West Point. The win pushed the Hilltoppers to bowl eligibility in their first season under head coach Bobby Petrino. The Hilltoppers still have work to do in league play though as they are sitting at just 2-3 in Sun Belt clashes with just two games left on the schedule.
Texas State had a three-game win end last time out as it fell to Arkansas State, 38-21, over the weekend. With the loss the Bobcats fell into a tie with the Hilltoppers both overall (6-4) and in-conference (2-3). This is the final home game of the season for Texas State, which has enjoyed a lot of success at Bobcat Stadium this year, with four wins in five outings.
The Bobcats are in their first year in the Sun Belt and second as an FBS program. This is the first time these teams are meeting.
Petrino has shaped Western Kentucky into one of the better offensive units in the Sun Belt. The Hilltoppers rank second in the league in total offense (462.3 ypg), while scoring just under 30 points per contest.
At the heart of the game plan is Antonio Andrews, who has separated himself as one of the premier backs not only in the Sun Belt but in all of college football. Andrews rushed for 117 yards and a score against Army and has had at least 100 yards rushing in all but one game this season. Andrews has rushed for 1,407 yards and 12 scores overall and is third in the country in rushing yards per game.
With Andrews taking on the bulk of the offensive load oftentimes quarterback Brandon Doughty doesn't need to air it out. Doughty has struggled with ball security this season, with 11 touchdowns against 14 interceptions, but he has also completed 67.2 percent of his pass attempts for 2,450 yards. Doughty has connected on at least 60 percent of his pass attempts in seven straight games and has a pair of 300-yard efforts this year.
Four different players have at least 300 yards receiving for the Hilltoppers this year, though Joel German (26 receptions, 339 yards) has missed the last two weeks for undisclosed reasons. He is questionable for Saturday's game. That shouldn't hurt the Hilltoppers that much as Willie McNeal (35 receptions, 505 yards, three TDs) and Nicholas Norris (27 receptions, 373 yards, three TDs) are fit to go, while Andrews (32 receptions, 398 yards) has been an effective receiver out of the backfield.
For Western Kentucky the offense is not all that has been impressive. The Hilltoppers are also leading the conference in total defense (360.4 ypg) and ranking third in scoring defense (25.7 ppg). The reason the Hilltoppers have not been more dominant is due to turnovers, as they have the worst turnover margin in the Sun Belt (-13). Xavius Boyd (89 tackles, 14.5 TFL, 7.5 sacks) has been a force up front
Texas State is a much less productive offensive team. In fact by tallying 336 yards of total offense per game, the Bobcats rank dead last in the Sun Belt in total yards. They also rank sixth in scoring (25.2 ppg).
Robert Lowe is Texas State's top offensive weapon. Lowe has rushed for 855 yards and nine touchdowns on the season and has had at least 60 yards in five straight games. Chris Nutall (463 yards, six TDs) has also gotten opportunities this year.
Tyler Jones handles the responsibilities under center. Jones has completed a solid 63.7 percent of his pass attempts but he has not exactly lit it up through the air. Jones finally eclipsed the 1,000-yard for the season against the Red Wolves and has now thrown seven touchdowns against four interceptions. Jones has improved in his last three games, throwing for at least 200 yards and two scores in each of those contests.
Andy Erickson (24 receptions, 249 yards) is the closest thing to a go-to receiver for the Bobcats. He is one of four pass-catchers to have at least 200 yards and one of two to have at least 20 receptions on the season. Isaiah Battle (23 receptions, 202 yards, TD) fits in both groups.
The Bobcats have overcome their offensive deficiencies by playing well on the defensive side of the ball. Texas State is second behind Western Kentucky in total defense (382.6 ypg), while leading the conference in turnover margin (+8). David Mayo (62 tackles, four INTs) has been a big reason for that, while Michael Orakpo (62 tackles, 3.5 sacks) has anchored a weak pass rush.
Both of these teams have had widely opposite results when it comes to ball security. That could play a large role yet again if the Bobcats can coax miscues on their homefield. However, with Andrews in the backfield expect this contest to be tight.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texas State 27, Western Kentucky 24
11/20 10:46:51 ET