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First Responder Bowl Picks & Odds: Underdog Broncos Looking for 2nd Bowl Win Since 1961

SMU Football Stadium
The First Responder Bowl will be played between Western Kentucky & Western Michigan on the campus of SMU. Photo by Jmcstrav (Wiki Commons).
  • Western Michigan  faces Western Kentucky in the First Responder Bowl December 30th
  • C-USA defensive player of the year DeAngelo Malone had 11.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss this year
  • The Broncos are 1-8 in bowl games since 1961

The First Responder Bowl starts bright and early with an 11:30 AM local kick off on December 30th from Gerald R. Ford Stadium on the campus of SMU. It pits two solid G5 outfits in the Broncos of Western Michigan (7-5, 5-3 MAC) against the Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky (8-4, 6-2 C-USA)

The Western Kentucky vs Western Michigan odds show the oddsmakers think the Hilltoppers have a good chance of picking up that 4th win in a row.

As for my money? I’m betting the favorites confidently in this one for a few key reasons.

Western Michigan vs Western Kentucky Odds

Team Spread Moneyline Total
Western Michigan +3.5 (-110) +150 O 52 (-110)
Western Kentucky -3.5 (-110) -170 U 52 (-110)

Odds taken Dec. 18th.

Will Broncos History Repeat Itself?

Western Michigan has won exactly one bowl game in the last 58 years. Despite that stunning number, the Broncos have had ample chances to break the streak over the time period, but haven’t gotten it done.

They have been efficient at gaining bowl eligibility, just not winning the games once they’re in them. This marks their 10th game since 1961 and that 1-8 record is a stat too ugly to ignore.

If you’re more of a fan of the “what have you done for me lately” numbers, the Broncos were 6-6 against the spread this year while the Hilltoppers were an impressive 8-4.

Western Kentucky Will Control the Line of Scrimmage

Western Kentucky has a great collection of talent on the offensive and defensive line. Only two schools ran for 200 yards on the Hilltoppers this year and they were the two power five schools on Western Kentucky’s schedule.

When they play opponents of equal skill, they shut things down on the offensive and defensive fronts. Their secondary is also more than capable of keeping up.

Western Michigan on the other hand ranks 85th in defensive efficiency. The Hilltoppers will want to run the ball and control the clock, and that ranking shows you there won’t be much in the way of resistance coming from the Broncos.

DeAngelo Malone the Player to Watch

One reason the Hilltoppers have some success on defense is their NFL caliber pass rusher in DeAngelo Malone. He won the C-USA defensive player of the year and for good reason racking up 11.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss.

Malone is 6’4 and 230 pounds which could keep him from going really early in the NFL draft. Fortunately for the Broncos, you don’t need Roger Goodell to call him to the stage in the 1st round, you just need him to shut down a Western Michigan offense that lost it’s last game 17-14 to bowl ineligible Northern Illinois.

Bet the Hilltoppers With Confidence

Giving up 3.5 points can be a scary number but I don’t see this game being close enough for it to matter. I think Western Kentucky wins by two scores continuing Western Michigan’s habit of making it to a bowl game, only to head back home with only a prize pack and a notch in the loss column for their efforts.

PICK: Western Kentucky -3.5 (-110)

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