WKU Football: WKU at ODU Statistical Preview
Before the season, Western Kentucky at Old Dominion was thought to be a potential battle to decide the East Division of Conference USA. Both teams have disappointed, and this has turned into a national TV battle to stay in the running for the division crown.
WKU (4–2, 2–1 C-USA) is in much better overall shape than ODU (2–4, 0–2 C-USA). The Hilltoppers are coming off of a much needed 45–14 thrashing of the winless Charlotte 49ers, while ODU has lost four games in a row with the most recent defeat coming in a 35–3 loss to Marshall.
For the most part, WKU dominated on both sides of the ball, running away with it late in the second quarter and cruising to an easy victory. ODU won their first two games against weak opponents, but have been blown out four times in a row against their toughest competition.
This is a really tough game to predict and I have combed through all of these stats trying to figure out how this is going to play out. Big injuries, inconsistency and rampant underachievement make this particular assignment a dastardly task.
In this edition of Matt’s Stats, we take a look at what the stats say about each team, and how they could help us predict what could happen this week from a football perspective.
WKU’s stats this week are much prettier than last week. It helps everything when you win by 31. However, let’s try to look past the Charlotte game and see the overall picture: On a national scale, the Hilltopper offense is below average. WKU’s rushing offense is 129th in yards, last in yards per attempt, and 93rd in rushing touchdowns. The passing game is now 20th in the country in yards, but has not produced points of significance outside of the Charlotte game.
Defensively, WKU stands in the top half of the country in virtually every statistical category. The Tops could certainly improve their playmaking; the Tops rank 65th in interceptions, 121st in fumbles recovered, 121st in sacks, 90th in tackles for loss and 86th on third down.
Offensively, Old Dominion is really struggling with injuries. The Monarchs lost starting wide receiver Jonathan Duhart to a broken foot and Ray Lawry, who has had 1,000 yards rushing each of the past two seasons, has battled a fully torn hamstring and is questionable for the game Friday. They average 17 points a game and (just like WKU) have only eclipsed 400 yards one time all season. Through the air, they have only eclipsed 200 yards once.
Defensively, ODU gives up nearly 35 points per game and over 200 yards on the ground. However, they have a good passing defense, only giving up 209 yards per game, which ranks 52nd nationally. They also have 20 sacks, which is tied for sixth in the nation.
So what’s really going to make the difference in the game?
Both teams are in the top 52 in the country in passing defense. ODU has played against solid competition, and to be able to boast a good pass defense despite being blown out in four of their games is impressive. WKU has a top 25 passing game, and ODU is a bottom 25 passing team. Very clearly, WKU must be able to pass the ball on Friday, and WKU’s defense must be able to stop a maimed ODU passing offense.
If the passing numbers are close for both teams, I believe ODU wins the game most of the time.
Very clearly, this is an area Old Dominion must dominate. WKU allows three sacks per game, and ODU records more than three sacks per game so far this year. WKU’s defensive line nabs one sack per game, while the Monarch front gives up less than two sacks per game.
If the sacks and tackles for loss numbers are comparable, this is a huge accomplishment for WKU. I believe WKU wins the game if they hold up against the Old Dominion front.
Both defenses force a turnover per game or less. Offensively, once again, WKU faces an opponent that has struggled to take care of the ball, especially in the red zone. At minimum, WKU must take care of the football, but if they can force a couple of turnovers, it’s difficult to see Old Dominion overtaking the Toppers in the scoring column at the end of the day.
If you’re a WKU fan, pray your Toppers can run the football against the Monarchs on Friday. If not, it could be a tough night. The Hilltoppers have been absolutely horrible in the running game, but if WKU can just have some type of presence on the ground, they’re in good shape on most nights.
ODU is much better on the ground than WKU thus far in the season, but the Monarchs are not Navy. They’re 98th in the nation in yards per game. Without Ray Lawry, Old Dominion is very vulnerable offensively. Whichever team can assemble a respectable running attack may just win this game.
This game feels like a slight advantage to WKU, but ODU is a huge unknown quantity. How good are they really? How good are Marshall and FAU (who beat them easily)? On the same token, WKU is just as much of an unknown. Who has WKU beaten? How good are any of the teams WKU has played? It’s going to be an exciting game.
As I comb through the stats trying to figure out what could possibly happen, it feels like WKU is most in control of the outcome. WKU is healthier, boast a more powerful passing game and have a much better overall defense. ODU, however, is extraordinarily dangerous. Their defensive line could blow up this game by itself, force a few turnovers and could be successful running the ball.
Ultimately, I feel WKU should win this game by a few touchdowns, but this is one of those games that could go 10 different directions. I predict WKU wins it because of superiority in the passing game.
WKU 33 — ODU 23.