Sparky Notes: WKU is bowl-bound. Which bowl would be the most fun?

Sparky Notes is football reporter Wyatt Sparkman’s weekly column that serves to dissect WKU Football’s most recent game.

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Jacob Latimer

A group of WKU fans cheer on the Hilltoppers during the game against MTSU at Feix Field.

Wyatt Sparkman, Football reporter

WKU became bowl eligible for the 10th time in 11 years by winning its fifth consecutive game 42-21 against Rice on Saturday afternoon. The game also saw the homecomings of Bailey Zappe and the rest of WKU’s Houston Baptist transfers.

Home Sweet Home   

WKU graduate quarterback Bailey Zappe’s return to Houston was nothing short of spectacular. Zappe started 36-of-38 games in four seasons for the Houston Baptist Huskies, throwing for 10,004 yards with 78 touchdowns. 

Zappe had a bounce-back performance of sorts against the Owls. He completed 58% of his passes for 281 yards, both season lows, along with four touchdowns against MTSU the previous week. A great game by any other quarterback’s standards, but a bit low for Zappe. Another testament to his skill.

He was firing on all cylinders to start the game, completing his first five passes before making his biggest mistake of the season. After a fumbled snap, Zappe picked up the ball and lofted it into the end zone on first down, only to be intercepted. 

The next possession was much better. He led a 97-yard, seven-play drive that ended with the first score of the game. He dominated Rice throughout, completing a season-high 81% of his passes. He threw for 482 yards and five touchdowns, simultaneously reaching the 4,000-yard and 40 touchdown marks for the season. The star quarterback is on pace to throw for 5,000-plus yards and over 50 touchdowns this year. 

Zappe has made an incredible mark on this program in a very short period of time. 

Going bowling – but where?

Since WKU became bowl eligible Saturday, let’s take a look at the possible bowl games the Hilltoppers could play in. 

My first choice is the RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl because it makes sense geographically. The bowl tie-ins are any Group of Five team or Army. The C-USA Champion has been represented in this bowl game five out of the last seven seasons. 

This would be a great spot for WKU if it wins both the east division and C-USA as a whole. A dream matchup would be against SMU or UCF because both programs’ high-octane offenses would match up well with WKU’s air raid scheme. 

My second choice is a trip back to the Bahamas for the Bahamas Bowl. The game is usually contested by a team from both the C-USA and the MAC.

If people wanted to see how WKU would fare against a MAC opponent, this would be the game to do it. The MAC and C-USA have alternated winning the Bahamas Bowl each year since its debut in 2014. 

The dream matchup for WKU here would be whoever wins the MAC Championship. Northern Illinois and Miami (Ohio) both lead their respective divisions in the MAC. The better game would be against Miami due to the fight the Redhawks put up against Minnesota and Army this year.

My third and final bowl pick is the Birmingham Bowl against South Carolina and former WKU defensive coordinator Clayton White. White left the Hill after the 2020 season, moving to South Carolina to coach the Gamecocks. 

This would be a satisfying conclusion for the WKU defense, which is in the middle of a great turnaround story after an awful start to the year. The only hiccup: South Carolina has to play Auburn and Clemson across its last two games, needing to win one to become bowl eligible. A difficult task, but a matchup like this would get a lot of people excited. 

Football reporter Wyatt Sparkman can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @wyattsparkman3.