Bowl prediction record: 4-3 SU, 2-5 ATS, 4-3 O/U
Miami Beach Bowl
Western Kentucky (11-2) vs. South Florida (8-4), Miami, 2:30 p.m., ESPN
Western Kentucky – 3 – O/U 68.5
This will be a tale of two coaches, as the guy who started Western Kentucky’s rise to prominence will stand on the sidelines opposite from the coach who has completed that transition. Willie Taggert coached the Hilltoppers until 2012, when he was hired away to rebuild South Florida. Now WKU is coached by Jeff Brohm, who has guided the Hilltoppers to the Conference USA championship and an 11-2 record. Their only two blemishes were a 3-point loss to Indiana, a team that tested (but lost) to the Big Ten’s best teams, and a 28-point loss to LSU when the Tigers were still on a roll. The Hilltoppers sport the best offense in Conference USA, led by QB Brandon Doughty (4,594 yards, 45 TDs), RBs Anthony Wales (986 yards 7 TDs) and D’Andre Ferby (604 yards, 11 TDs) and WR Taywan Taylor (1,363 yards, 17 TDs). South Florida simply won’t stop them, but that’s a good thing for WKU, because they won’t stop the Bulls either. The Hilltoppers placed five players on the all-conference offensive team, but only one defensive player – LB Nick Holt. Their best bet is to slow down a South Florida offense 153 points in their last three games. QB Quinton Flowers (2,023 yards, 21 TDs) is a serviceable passer, but his legs lead the rushing attack that is far more dangerous. Flowers also picked up 883 yards and 10 TDs on the ground, and RB Marlon Mack (1,273 yards, 8 TDs) is a powerful runner who can wear down a defense. The scoring should come early and often in this one, and the last team with the ball will likely win. Given that Western Kentucky has a better chance for a quick strike and has one of the best turnover margins in the country, look for them to pull out the late win. Prediction: Western Kentucky 41, South Florida 35.
Result: Western Kentucky 45, South Florida 35. MVP: Brandon Doughty, QB, Western Kentucky. 32-of-44 for 461 yards, 3 TDs and 2 INTs. Bottom Line: The track meet didn’t start until the second half, but when it did, the scoreboard turned into a pinball machine. Both teams combined for 56 second-half points, with Western Kentucky taking control fairly quickly. QB Brandon Doughty struggled early on, but lit up the South Florida secondary for three TDs, while RB Anthony Wales added a 100-yard game and 2 more TDs. South Florida fought back on the legs of QB Quinton Flowers and RB Marlon Mack (both had 108 yards), but the WKU scoring onslaught was simply too much.