Last Updated Dec 22, 2021, 10:36 AM

Boca Raton Bowl Picks, Predictions and Odds: Western Kentucky vs. Appalachian State

Dec. 18, 2021
Jonathan Willis
VI Betting Expert

The Boca Raton Bowl is set to kick off a busy Saturday of bowl games with the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers taking on the Appalachian State Mountaineers. Opening kick is set for 11:00 a.m. ET and will be aired on ESPN from the FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Florida.

Score Prediction

Appalachian State 41, Western Kentucky 35

Best Bets

Over 66 (-110) at Circa Sports

Boca Raton Bowl Predictions

Bailey Zappe could set the national record for most passing yards in a single season with 289 yards against the Appalachian State Mountaineers in the Boca Raton Bowl. Zappe has had an incredible year with the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, and he has the potential to become the first player in FBS history to throw for over 6,000 yards in a season with a big game on Saturday.

Although Western Kentucky has a record-setting offense, Appalachian State is a short favorite in this game. WKU offensive coordinator Zach Kittley agreed to be the new OC at Texas Tech last week, and while he is expected to coach in this bowl game, Kittley has spent much of the last couple weeks helping recruit players to Lubbock. The combination of Kittley’s absence and a porous WKU defense will lead to this game going over with Appalachian State likely to cover too.

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Boca Raton Bowl Betting Odds

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Boca Raton Bowl Betting Resources

  • Matchup: CUSA vs. Sun Belt
  • Date: Saturday, December 18, 2021
  • Venue: FAU Stadium
  • Location: Boca Raton, Florida
  • TV-Time: ESPN, 11:00 a.m. ET

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Betting Analysis

Straight Up - SU, Against the Spread - ATS, Over-Under (O/U)

  • SU: 8-5
  • ATS: 9-4
  • O/U: 9-4

Tyson Helton’s decision to import much of FCS Houston Baptist’s offense in the offseason worked out tremendously. Zappe threw for over 5,500 yards and 56 touchdowns to be the nation’s leading passer. Zappe had more games where he threw for more than 500 yards (two) than under 300 yards (one), and he threw for 577 yards against UTSA in the Conference USA Championship Game.

Fellow Houston Baptist transfer Jerreth Sterns was the best receiver in this offense. Sterns caught 137 passes for 1,718 yards and 14 touchdowns to be the nation’s top wide out. The other two receivers that transferred into WKU from Houston Baptist weren’t too productive, but Mitchell Tinsley had 80 receptions for 1,299 yards and 12 touchdowns and two other players had at least 690 receiving yards and seven scores.

That made this one of the top three offenses in the country although the ground game was somewhat nonexistent. Western Kentucky ranked third nationally in scoring offense (41.8 PPG) and second in total offense (523.5 YPG).

Western Kentucky’s defense is ranked 82nd in Defensive SP+. Defensive end DeAngelo Malone was a First Team All-Conference USA selection with 88 tackles, eight sacks, and four forced fumbles. Safety Beanie Bishop is a playmaker in the secondary too.

Appalachian State Mountaineers Betting Analysis

Straight Up - SU, Against the Spread - ATS, Over-Under (O/U)

  • SU: 10-3
  • ATS: 8-5
  • O/U: 5-8

Chase Brice gave Appalachian State a real passing threat in 2021. The former Clemson and Duke quarterback completed over 3,000 yards while averaging 8.2 YPA. Brice has made some mistakes in recent weeks though, tossing five interceptions in his last five games, and he only averaged 4.0 YPA against Louisiana in the Sun Belt Championship Game.

The Mountaineers run the ball very well though. Nate Noel is the team’s leading rusher with 1,078 yards (5.5 YPC) and four touchdowns, but Camerun Peoples is right behind him with 825 yards (5.4 YPC) and 14 touchdowns.

Brice has only been sacked 13 times behind a solid offensive line. Cooper Hodges and Baer Hunter were both First Team All-Sun Belt choices alongside Noel and leading receiver Corey Sutton.

Appalachian State’s defense had four First Team All-Sun Belt selections too. The Mountaineers rank 32nd in Defensive SP+, and they rank 16th nationally in both total defense and scoring defense. Linebacker Nick Hampton led the team with 10 sacks, and defensive back Steven Jones Jr. had eight pass defenses and five interceptions.

Inside the Stats - Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

  • Record: 8-5
  • VI Ranking: 83
  • Points Scored: 560
  • Points Allowed: 373
  • PS/G: 43.1 (2nd)
  • PA/G: 28.7 (90th)

Inside the Stats - Appalachian State Mountaineers

  • Record: 10-3
  • VI Ranking: 26
  • Points Scored: 445
  • Points Allowed: 251
  • PS/G: 34.2 (23rd)
  • PA/G: 19.3 (16th)

Key Players to Watch

  • WKY: Bailey Zappe - QB (443/640, 5,545 yards, 56 TD, 11 INT)
  • WKY: Mitchell Tinlsey - WR (80 catches, 1,299 yards, 12 TD)
  • APP: Chase Brice - QB (227/368, 3,022 yards, 23 TD, 10 INT)
  • APP: Camerun Peoples - RB (153 carries, 825 yards, 14 TD)

Boca Raton Bowl Betting Conclusion

It might be tempting to go with Western Kentucky’s high-octane offense in this game, but Appalachian State has a solid defense that can hold Zappe somewhat in check. Meanwhile, the Mountaineers will be able to control the clock and wear WKU’s front seven down.

Boca Raton Bowl Betting Trends

  • Western Kentucky has covered the spread in five of its last six games.
  • Western Kentucky has gone OVER the point total in five straight games when playing in Florida.
  • Appalachian State has covered the spread in four of its last six games away from Boone.

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