Third place Hilltoppers look to keep title game hopes alive against Rice

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Arthur H. Trickett-Wile

Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers redshirt sophomore Joshua Simon (6) celebrates a touchdown with his teammates during their match against the Troy University Trojans Saturday evening, Oct. 1, 2022 on Jimmy Feix Field on the WKU campus in Bowling Green, Ky. Hilltoppers fell to the Trojans 34-27.

Camden Bush, Football reporter

WKU Football is preparing to square off with the Rice Owls Saturday at Houchens-Smith stadium Saturday.

The Hilltoppers will be looking to bring in some momentum from last Saturday’s game as WKU came up with a 59-7 victory over Charlotte.

“Get to come back home, had a good win last week against Charlotte,” said head coach Tyson Helton. “Guys are really excited to be back home and playing a really motivated rice team.Everybody’s going down the stretch trying to get bowl eligible. They’re a good football team, I know they’ll come in here and it’ll be a highly competitive game.”

Rice is coming off a big conference win over UTEP, which has the Owls at 5-4 on the season and 3-2 in conference play. The season has been full of ups and downs for the, despite being 3-2 in conference play. The Owls suffered a really bad loss two weeks ago. Rice lost to a 2-8 Charlotte team 56-23.

The Hilltoppers on the other hand played that same Charlotte team just one week later and beat them 59-7. With that victory the Hilltoppers are now bowl eligible and sit at 6-4 on the season and 4-2 in conference play.

WKU entered the week as a 13 point favorite over the Owls, according to ESPN, but Helton views Rice as a tough opponent.

“I think they’re a good football team, we’re a pretty evenly matched football team, and just glad we’re playing at home. Maybe that might give us a little bit of an advantage there but I expect a four quarter football game. I expect it to go down the stretch.”

Saturday’s matchup figures to be a high-scoring one as both teams come into the matchup averaging over 30 points per game. 

The Hilltoppers defense however has been better than Rice’s on the season as WKU has allowed just over 22 points per game, while Rice has allowed over 33.

Helton acknowledged that WKU will have to game plan for the fact that Rice’s offense is skilled in taking long drives that result in points, but they also can score quickly if they need to.

The Hilltoppers currently sit in third place in the Conference USA standings and will need some help to make it to the C-USA championship game.

WKU will need North Texas to lose their remaining two games and to win their two remaining conference games if they want to make it to the championship. 

North Texas will be squaring off with UAB this Saturday. 

WKU and Rice will square off at Houchens-Smith stadium at 1 p.m. CT Saturday.